A collage of fire victims

Who dies in fatal home fires?

According to the new NFPA report, Home Fire Victims by Age and Gender, the risk of home fire death and fire injury varies by age, gender, and cause of fire. During 2015–2019, an estimated average of 2,620 civilians died and 11,070 were injured in reported home fires annually, accounting for 75 percent of the total civilian fire deaths and 72 percent of civilian fire injuries (the remaining deaths and injuries did not occur in homes).

The majority of home fire victims were male (57 percent of the deaths and 55 percent of the injuries).

More than one-third (37 percent) of the fatalities were 65 or older. Only 17 percent of the non-fatally injured were in that age group. The largest number of deaths (20 percent) in a single age group was among people 55 through 64 years old. Thirteen percent of the population was in that age group.

Children under 15 accounted for 11 percent of the home fire fatalities and 9 percent of the injuries. Children under five accounted for only 5 percent of the deaths and 4 percent of the injuries.

Three-quarters (74 percent) of the 150 people who died in home fires that began with clothing ignitions were at least 55 years of age. Only 6 percent were under 15.

While smoking materials were the leading cause of home fire deaths overall, this was true only for people in the 55-84 age groups. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the victims of fatal smoking material fires were in the area of origin when the fire occurred. Three of every five (61 percent) were in the area and involved in ignition. Thirty-five percent of the smoking fire fatalities had been sleeping and 17 percent had been unable to act.

Cooking is the leading cause of non-fatal home fire injuries throughout life. Eight percent of the civilians who died and half (52 percent) of the civilians non-fatally injured in home cooking fires were hurt while trying to control the fire themselves. Only one-third (32 percent) of the cooking fire fatalities had been in the area of origin when the fire started. Cooking was the leading cause of fire death among adults 85 and older.

Males had twice the risk of females of dying in an intentionally set home fire. Nearly half (46 percent) of all victims of intentionally set home fires were acting irrationally when fatally injured. According to death certificate data, 64 percent of all intentional fire or flame deaths in 2015–2019 (including non-home fires) were suicides.

Three of every five fatal candle fire victims (59 percent) were female, as were 55 percent of the non-fatally injured. Almost three of every five victims of fatal candle fires (57 percent) were at least 55 years old.

Learn more about the characteristics of home fire victims.

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Birgitte Messerschmidt
Director of Research

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