Open navigation

Poverty and the risk of fire

Report: NFPA's "Poverty and the Risk of Fire"
Author: Rita Fahy, Ph.D. and Radhika Maheshwari
Issued: July 2021


NFPA’s focus on community risk reduction (CRR) includes a new standard published in 2020, NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. In addition, NFPA has created an innovative digital dashboard called CRAIG 1300 to assist communities using the standard to drive local risk assessments.

Key findings

  • The connection between poverty and elevated fire risk has been documented in multiple studies, some going back as far as the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Factors associated with poverty and elevated fire risk include family stability, crowdedness, the percentage of owner-occupied homes, older housing, the proportion of vacant houses, and the ability to speak English.
  • Since 1967, the share of the US population living at or near the poverty level has fluctuated between 15 and 20 percent of the population.
  • Based on the rise in total US population, the number of people living in poverty in the US increased 34.6 percent between 2000 and 2017, with the number of poor people in suburbs and exurbs doubling.
  • Successful programs to reduce fire incident rates have been introduced in high-poverty areas. The process of community risk reduction, as described in NFPA 1300, shows promise for future success.