Press conference about the Bronx fire

NFPA resources speak to fire and life safety issues as the nation grapples with catastrophic residential fires in Philly and the Bronx

Sunday's fire in the Bronx, N.Y. represents the second most deadly U.S. home fire in nearly 40 years. The tragedy comes on the heels of another harrowing incident in Philadelphia just four days before.

Approximately 100 miles away from each other, the two fires and the tragic death tolls incurred place them both in the top 10 residential fires since 1980. The incidents present a stark contrast to the fire progress that has been documented in recent decades and is reflected in last year’s Fire Safety in the United States report. These incidents, once again, underscore that safety is a system as outlined in the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™.

NFPA has been responding to a high volume of media inquiries and pointing reporters to the Association’s breaking news box at Policy makers, professionals, practitioners, and the public will also find great value in these resources.

US home fires involving multiple fatalities

The full list of home fires involving 10 or more fatalities can be found in NFPA research related to catastrophic multiple-death fires.

US home heating equipment fires

Late today, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) confirmed that a space heater was responsible for the start of yesterday’s tragic fire. Heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths and injuries. Overall, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment per year in 2014-2018, accounting for 14 percent of all reported home fires and 19 percent of home fire deaths. These fires resulted in an annual average of 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.

Space heaters are the type of heating equipment most often involved in home heating fires. Between 2014 and 2018, space heaters annually accounted for more than two out of five heating fires and the majority of heating fire deaths (81 percent) and injuries (80 percent).

The NFPA U.S. Home Heating Fires report provides more data on when, where, and how home heating fires happen, while the NFPA home heating safety tip sheet offers guidelines for safely heating homes during the winter months. Here are some of the key takeaways on the tip sheet:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.

Other safety considerations

We also feature several other related resources that may be of interest as other factors for both these catastrophic fires are considered. They include:

  • Closed door safety messaging – Open doors can intensify the spread of fire, smoke, and toxic gases. 
  • Smoke alarms – The importance of having working smoke alarms and to respond immediately to them is critical to fire safety.
  • Fire sprinklersFire sprinklers significantly reduce the number of deaths, injuries, and property loss in a fire. Our US Experience with Sprinklers report underscores their effectiveness.
  • NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® – Benchmark guidance within NFPA 101 addresses requirements for high-rise buildings, doors, exits, stairways, fire protection systems, and the role of the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).
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Cathy Longley
Communications Manager, informing stakeholders about NFPA thought leadership, subject matter expertise, resources, initiatives & research.

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