AUTHOR: Susan McKelvey

U.S. Civilian Fire Death Rates Present Concerning Trends

The United States has made remarkable progress in fire safety since 1980, witnessing a decrease in both fires and fire-related deaths. This positive trend can be attributed to various factors, including improved building codes, enhanced fire suppression systems, increased awareness, and better fire prevention strategies. To gain deeper insights into recent trends, NFPA® recently released the report Fire Loss in the United States During 2021, which highlights fire incidents and deaths in recent years. Its findings highlight the increase in reported fire incidents and related fatalities as well as the importance of promoting fire prevention, education, and preparedness efforts. It also sheds light on the disconcerting increase in the rate of injuries and deaths in reported home fires since 1980. As NFPA Fire Analysis Research Manager Shelby Hall and NFPA Director of Research Birgitte Messerschmidt discussed during the NFPA C&E session Civilian Fire Death Rate Trends from 1980 - 2021, the findings call for urgent attention and emphasize the need for enhanced fire safety measures. According to the report, the rate of injury and death in reported home fires is higher now than it was in 1980. While improvements have been made in fire prevention and safety measures, the data reveals that these efforts have not been sufficient to control the rising casualties. The estimate of total fires in 2021 was 55% lower than in 1980, while fire death and injury estimates were 42% and 44% lower, respectively, over the same period. In 2021, local fire departments, including departments protecting towns, townships, cities, and counties, responded to an estimated 1,353,500 fires in the U.S. These fires caused an estimated 3,800 civilian deaths, 14,700 civilian injuries, and $15.9 billion in direct property damage. Meanwhile, direct property damage decreased by 30 percent compared to the property damage in 2020. “Tackling this alarming trend requires a concerted effort involving education, regulatory measures, technological advancements, and community engagement,” said Messerschmidt. “Understanding the underlying causes and developing comprehensive solutions is paramount to reducing these incidents and protecting lives.”

ESS Presentations at NFPA C&E Address a Wide Range of Issues, Including the Hazards They Present and Tactical Approaches for Mitigation

With the growing prevalence of energy storage systems (ESS), fire departments have responded to an increasing number of associated incidents, presenting new challenges for firefighters. At Responding to Residential ESS Incidents: Tactical Considerations, an educational session on Monday morning at the NFPA Conference & Expo® (C&E), Sean DeCrane, IAFF Health and Safety Operational Services; Adam Barowy, UL Solutions; and Alex Schraiber, UL Solutions, provided an overview of two research projects that establish size-up and tactical considerations for responding to residential ESS failures. DeCrane, who served as the primary presenter, reinforced that first responders need to be adequately prepared to respond to incidents now and in the future as these technologies continue to advance and change. “There are no hard and fast rules for doing this,” DeCrane said. “We need to give firefighters the best information that can be provided so that we can help them make informed decisions that enable them to protect themselves and their crews.” An NFPA Journal article, “ESS Prep,” by Angelo Verzoni highlights improved ESS training and regulation as keys to a safe coexistence with this evolving and complex hazard. In addition, a series of ESS educational sessions hosted at C&E are addressing ESS and lithium-ion batteries from various angles. Today’s Energy Storage Systems and Microgrid Resiliency session covers what constitutes a smart grid and how it can help achieve electrical system resiliency in small-, medium-, and large-scale applications. Attendees will hear how energy management systems are finding more use in business today and how NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®, can help manage and control electrical loads. ESS Lifecycle Considerations: From Pre-Planning to Decommissioning, also held today, features a diverse group of experts discussing the roles, responsibilities, and considerations for ESS projects over their lifecycle, from the preplanning phase to design, installation, and operation to decommissioning (with and without failure). This panel discussion offers perspectives from manufacturers, AHJs, FPEs/consultants, developer/installer/maintainers, and insurance and fire service. These are just a few of the many lithium-ion and ESS presentations hosted at C&E this week, reflecting the many risks they present in today’s world. To learn more about ESS, visit

NFPA announces recipients of its Stars at Night awards gala in Las Vegas

NFPA held its Stars at Night awards gala in Las Vegas to honor the individuals who have distinguished themselves across seven unique award categories. These awards, which represent the utmost recognition bestowed by NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation, celebrate the dedication, ingenuity, and a relentless spirit of service that each of them has shown in the name of fire and life safety. Following are the awards presented and the recipients of each: Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year Jessica Xenakis, life safety education coordinator with the Virginia Beach Fire Department, received the 2023 Fire & Life Safety Educator of the Year Award for her innovative fire safety education efforts. 2022 Fire Protection Research Foundation Medal Jerry Back, Casey Grant, Edward Hawthorne, and Noah Lieb received the 2022 Fire Protection Research Foundation Medal, recognizing the outstanding contributions for their project “Firefighting Foams: A Fire Service Roadmap.” Harry C. Bigglestone Award Jens Kristensen, Benjamin Jacobs, and Grunde Jomaas are the winners of the 2023 Harry C. Bigglestone Award, which is given annually for a paper published in Fire Technology that best represents excellence in communicating fire protection concepts. The Standards Medal Daniel J. O'Connor, a technical fellow at Jensen Hughes and a member of the 2023 NFPA Standards Council, received the prestigious Standards Medal, which recognizes outstanding contributions to fire safety and the development of NFPA codes and standards. James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal Chief Ron Siarnicki received the 2023 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal, which honors individuals who fervently champion fire safety through advocacy, much like past NFPA Jim Shannon, a tireless fire safety advocate. 2023 Distinguished Service Award Dr. James Milke, professor and chair of the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at the University of Maryland, received the 2023 Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes extraordinary achievements and longstanding commitment to the NFPA mission. DiNenno Prize Göran Sundholm, Jerry Back, Jack Mawhinney, and Magnus Arvidson received the Philip J. DiNenno Prize, which celebrates extraordinary contributions to fire safety, recognizing technological innovations impacting building, fire, and electrical safety. Congratulations to all last night’s award recipients – each of them has helped make our world a safer place to live and work.  

Addressing the True Safety Needs of Your Community Is Key to Reducing Its Leading Risks

At a CRR Kitchen Table event hosted by NFPA® earlier this month, the Gates Fire Department (New York) shared how conducting a community risk assessment (CRA) using CRAIG 1300®, the digital tool that helps capture and analyze community data, helped them identify the leading safety risks within their community and create a plan for addressing them. Alan Bubel, fire chief of the Gates Fire Department (GFD), said that in previous years he spent more time looking at trends across the country, but many of those trends didn’t truly speak to the needs and circumstances of his community. By changing their focus and looking at the real risks and threats, Bubel and his colleagues have been better able to respond to those issues and needs, particularly as demographics have changed over the past 20 years and more residents are at higher risk to fire. “If we don’t know what our community’s needs are, we aren’t going to be able to meet them,” said Bubel. Kalli Herouvis, CRR specialist for GFD, and Laurie Schwenzer, assistant CRR specialist for GFD, also shared their approach to implementing an effective CRR strategy, noting that they look at CRR from both an educational and operational standpoint. As the needs and risks are changing—and the pace of that change is getting faster—the data provided by CRAIG 1300 helps identify those needs and effectively address them. Herouvis reinforced that understanding the people plays a key role in their efforts. “Demographics, the occupancies within the community, economics—they’re are all factors in identifying the risks within the community,” she said. The Gates Fire Department also said that CRAIG 1300 has been an effective tool for substantiating the need for more staffing and services, as the tool effectively tracks the increased number of calls they receive and the reasons for those calls. Consequently, the Gates Fire Department has been able to increase its staffing and, in turn, have been more effective in providing services to the community. The upcoming KT event on Wednesday, March 29, will feature Jason Orellanas from the Cape Coral Fire Department (Florida), who will talk about how the data from his Community Risk Assessment helps not only to guide prevention efforts, but also how it was a valuable resource in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Email to register!
A man and woman tasting food

Keep the love alive this Valentine’s Day, prevent the cooking and candle fires

If you’re planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day by cooking a special meal or using candles to create a warm, cozy environment, remember to keep fire safety in mind. Home fires involving cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires, with unattended cooking serving as the leading cause. Keep a close eye on what’s on the stove and in the oven and turn off cooking appliances promptly when you’re finished using them. Also, keep anything that can burn, such as oven mitts, dish towels, and food packaging, at least three feet from the cooking area. An average of 20 home candle fires are reported to US fire departments each day. Three of every five (60%) of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle, with roughly one-third (37%) of home candle fires starting in bedrooms. Consider using battery-operated candles, which eliminate the risk of candle fires. If you do plan to use real candles, these tips can help minimize the risk of fire: Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Use candle holders that are sturdy and won’t tip over easily. Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface. Blow out all candles before you leave a room or go to bed. Never leave children or pets alone in a room with a burning candle. Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame. Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep. Check out our cooking and candle safety pages for more information and to keep this February 14 a romantic, fire-free holiday.
Christmas tree removal

One-third (33 percent) of Christmas Tree Fires Occur in January, Making Prompt Removal from Homes Critical to Safety

Saying goodbye to your Christmas tree may not be easy, but here’s a compelling reason to remove it as soon as possible: One-third (33 percent) of US home fires involving Christmas trees occur in January, on annual average. The longer a natural tree is kept up after Christmas, the more likely it is to dry out; a dried-out tree can become engulfed in flames in a matter of seconds. That’s why NFPA® strongly encourages everyone to remove Christmas trees from their homes promptly after the holiday season. The latest Christmas tree fires report from NFPA, which reflects annual averages between 2016 and 2020, shows that 160 home structure fires began with Christmas trees, resulting in two civilian deaths, 11 civilian injuries, and $12 million in direct property damage. According to the report, fires that begin with Christmas trees are a very small but notable part of the US fire problem, considering that they are generally in use for a short time each year. Some Christmas tree fires occur in chimneys or flues, suggesting that people may burn the tree to dispose of it. With these concerns in mind, the US Forest Service offers this caution: “Never burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove! Pines, firs and other evergreens have a high content of flammable turpentine oils and burning the tree may contribute to creosote buildup and risk a chimney fire.” To safely dispose of a Christmas tree, NFPA recommends using the local community’s recycling program, if possible; trees should not be put in the garage or left outside. Also, following are tips for safely removing lighting and decorations and storing them properly to ensure that they’re still in good condition next season: Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk of shock or electrical fire. As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets, or cracked or bare wires. Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags or wrap them around a piece of cardboard. Store electrical decorations in a dry place away from children and pets where they will not be damaged by water or dampness. For more information on home fire safety all winter long, visit “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires,” a winter safety campaign NFPA promotes annually with the US Fire Administration.
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