Deaths from fires and burns are the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States (CDC 2005) and the third leading cause of fatal home injury (Runyan 2004). The United States mortality rate from fires ranks fourth among the 25 developed countries for which statistics are available (USFA 2007).
Although the number of fatalities and injuries caused by residential fires has declined gradually over the past several decades, many residential fire-related deaths remain preventable and continue to pose a significant public health problem.
U.S. Residential Fire Loss: 1997-2006
The residential structure fire problem represented approximately 81 percent of all fire deaths and 79 percent of the injuries to civilians in 2006. Between 1997 and 2006, an average of 3,090 civilians lost their lives and another 15,340 were injured annually as the result of residential structure fires.
Residential structures include one- and two-family dwellings (including manufactured homes), apartments, hotels, motels, college dormitories, boarding houses, etc.
The following table shows the number of fires, deaths, injuries and dollar loss that occurred in residential structures from 1997 to 2006.
|Year||Fires||Deaths||Injuries||Direct Dollar Loss In Millions|
Source: National Fire Protection Association Fire Loss in the U.S. During 2006
Occurrence and Consequences
- On average in the United States in 2006, someone died in a fire about every 162 minutes, and someone was injured every 32 minutes (Karter 2007).
- Four out of five U.S. fire deaths in 2006 occurred in homes (Karter 2007).
- In 2006, fire departments responded to 412,500 home fires in the United States, which claimed the lives of 2,620 people (not including firefighters) and injured another 12,925, not including firefighters (Karter 2007).
- Most victims of fires die from smoke inhalation and not from burns (Hall 2002).
- Fires started by lighted tobacco products, principally cigarettes, constitute the leading cause of residential fire deaths. (USFA 2006)
- Cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop, is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States. (USFA 2007).
In 2006, residential fires caused nearly $7 billion in property damage (Karter 2007).
Fire and burn injuries represent 1% of the incidence of injuries and 2% of the total costs of injuries, or $7.5 billion each year (Finkelstein et al. 2006).
- Males account for $4.8 billion (64%) of the total costs of fire/burn injuries.
- Females account for $2.7 billion (36%) of the total costs of fire/burn injuries.
- Fatal fire and burn injuries cost $3 billion, representing 2% of the total costs of all fatal injuries.
- Hospitalized fire and burn injuries total $1 billion, or 1% of the total cost of all hospitalized injuries.
- Non-hospitalized fire and burn injuries cost $3 billion, or 2% of the total cost of all non-hospitalized injuries.
Groups at Risk
Groups at increased risk of fire-related injuries and deaths include:
- People in the Southeast (USFA 2007)
- Males (USFA 2007)
- Children 4 and under (USFA 2007)
- Older adults ages 60 and older (USFA 2007)
- African-Americans (USFA 2007)
- American-Indians (USFA 2007)
- Rural communities with populations under 2,500 (USFA 2007)
- The poorest Americans (Istre 2001)
- Persons living in manufactured homes or substandard housing (Hall 2005)
- 43 percent of home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms (Ahrens 2007).
- Most residential fires occur during the winter months (USFA 2001).
- Alcohol use contributes to an estimated 40% of residential fire deaths (USFA 2003).