NFPA releases new report on home structure fires

Published on February 17, 2009
Fires strike where people live

February 17, 2009 – Three hundred ninety-nine thousand home fires were reported in the United States in 2007, according to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) recently released Home Structure Fires report. The category of homes includes one- and two-family dwellings and apartments.

On average, eight people die in home fires every day in the United States - a total of 2,865 deaths. Home fires accounted for 84 percent of all civilian fire deaths and resulted in 13,600 injuries. Direct property damage was estimated at $7.4 billion.

The report further breaks down causes and circumstances of home fires reported during the four year period of 2003-2006.

Highlights include:

  • Roughly one in three reported home fires and home fire deaths occur in December, January, and February.
  • Cooking equipment is the leading cause of fires, civilian fire injuries, and unreported fires.
  • About 41 percent of reported home fires began in the kitchen or cooking area.
  • Smoking was the leading cause of civilian home structure fire deaths.
  • Heating ranked second in home structure fire deaths (in one- or two-family dwellings and apartments) overall, and was the leading cause of fire-related deaths in one- or two-family dwellings.
  • Heating equipment fires caused the largest percentage of direct property damage.
  • Children under five and adults 65 and over face the highest risk of home fire death.
  • Almost two thirds of home fire deaths occurred in homes without working smoke alarms.
  • Ninety-six percent of all homes have at least one smoke alarm.
  • More than half (53 percent) of the people killed by home fires were in the room or area of origin when the fire started.

Although considerable progress has been made, there is more that can be done to protect and provide added safety to every home.

NFPA offers the following 10 general tips for fire safety:

  • Watch your cooking - Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you must leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.
  • Give space heaters space - Keep fixed and portable space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn. Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Smoke outside - Ask smokers to smoke outside. Have sturdy, deep ashtrays for smokers.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach - Keep matches and lighters up high, out of the reach of children, preferably in a cabinet with a child lock.
  • Inspect electrical cords - Replace cords that are cracked, damaged, frayed, have broken plugs, or have loose connections.
  • Be careful when using candles - Keep candles at least one foot from anything that can burn. Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Have a home fire escape plan - Make a home fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year.
  • Install smoke alarms - Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Interconnect smoke alarms throughout the home - when one sounds, they all sound.
  • Test smoke alarms - Test smoke alarms at least once a month and replace batteries once a year or when the alarm “chirps” to tell you the battery is low. Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old.
  • Install sprinklers - If you are building or remodeling your home, install residential fire sprinklers. Sprinklers can contain and may even extinguish a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive.

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NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

Contact: Lorraine Carli , Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275