Fire: What To Know

Fire Loss Overview

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,348,500 fires in 2009. These fires resulted in 3,010 civilian fire fatalities, 17,050 civilian fire injuries and an estimated $12,531,000,000 in direct property loss.

There was a civilian fire death every 175 minutes and a civilian fire injury every 31 minutes in 2009. Home fires caused 2,565, or 85%, of the civilian fire deaths. Fires accounted for five percent of the 26,534,000 total calls. Eight percent of the calls were false alarms; sixty-five percent of the calls were for aid such as EMS.

Projections from NFPA’s annual fire department experience data show that reported fires and fire deaths have fallen since 1977, the first year of available data. The drop in population-based rates is even sharper. In 2009, home structure fires accounted for 27% of the reported fires. However, these incidents caused 85% of all civilian fire deaths. Vehicle fires accounted for 16% of the reported fires and 9% of the civilian fire deaths. Roughly half (48%) of the reported fires were outside or other non-structure, non-vehicle fires. In 2009, only 5% of all fire department responses were to fires while 64% were medical aid responses. Since 1980, medical aid calls have more than tripled.

Fire Basics

There are three necessary parts of a fire: fuel, heat and air. A fire will burn until one of these parts is taken away. A fire has the following stages:

  • Ignition —fuel, heat and air (oxygen) combine in a sustained chemical reaction
  • Growth — the fire spreads when additional fuel ignites and the fire's size increases across more surfaces and to the ceiling, if indoors
  • Fully developed — the temperature reaches its apex, the fire has spread to most, if not all, of the available fuel and the fire quickly consumes oxygen
  • Decay (burnout) — the fire loses intensity, the temperature decreases and the fire uses available fuel

Major causes of fires in homes include: cooking equipment, heating equipment, electrical or lighting equipment, candles, clothes washers and dryers, smoking materials, exposure and playing with a heat source (matches, lighters).

Frequently Asked Questions about Fire Loss

Q: What are some common causes of fires in the home?

A: According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), lighted smoking materials, especially cigarettes, are the leading cause of fatal fires in the home, causing 700 to 900 deaths each year. The NFPA lists cooking equipment as the leading cause of home fires and the fourth leading cause of home-fire deaths. Most cooking equipment fires involve a range or cook-top and happen when people leave what they are cooking unattended. Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires and third leading cause of fire deaths in the home according to the NFPA.

Q: What are some things I can do to prevent fires at home?

A: There are several safety tips to remember in order to lessen the risk of fires at home, including: never leave cooking food unattended; keep space heaters away from any flammable materials; inspect electrical cords and wiring regularly; blow out candles when you leave a room or go to sleep; keep matches and lighters away from children; and install smoke alarms and test them regularly.

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