The following post was written by Marty Ahrens, NFPA's senior manager of data strategy and analytics:
It may be hard to believe, but NFPA's latest report on home structure fires shows that in 2010-2014, five general fire causes accounted for 84 percent of reported home fires, 91 percent of home fire deaths, and 82 percent of home fire injuries.
1. Cooking equipment was the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, causing 46 percent of home fires that resulted in 19 percent of the home fire deaths and 44 percent of the injuries.
2. Heating equipment caused 16 percent of home fires, 19 percent of the deaths, and 12 percent of the injuries.
3. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment caused eight percent of the fires, 16 percent of the deaths, and nine percent of the injuries.
4. Eight percent of home structure fires were intentionally set. These fires caused 14 percent of the deaths and 7 percent of the injuries.
5. While only five percent of home fires were started by smoking materials, these fires caused 22 percent of the deaths and 10 percent of the injuries.
We know what causes fires. We know how to prevent them. We have made progress. Reported home fires and home fire deaths have been cut in half since 1980. Even so, home fires still kill roughly 2,500 people per year. That's an average of seven people dying in home fires every day!
According to NFPA's recent report, "Fire Loss in the United States during 2015," the death rate per 1,000 reported home fires was 7.1 in 1980; in 2015, it was 7.0, only 1 percent lower. This suggests that most of our progress has come from preventing fires completely or from the early warning from smoke alarms. While almost all homes have at least one smoke alarm, roughly three out of five home fire deaths in 2010-2014 resulted from fires in homes in which either no smoke alarm was present (39 percent) or at least one alarm was present but none operated (19 percent). Ensuring that every home has working smoke alarms is critical. NFPA's has educational materials on smoke alarms for local use.
Fire sprinklers were present in only seven percent of reported home fires. The death rate per 1,000 reported home fires when wet-pipe sprinklers were present was 79 percent lower than it was in home fires with no automatic extinguishing systems. Home fire sprinklers can control a fire before the fire department gets there. The Fire Sprinkler Initiative has resource materials for sprinkler advocacy.
As the author of NFPA's "Home Structure Fires" report, I want to personally thank the firefighters, life safety educators, and others who work so hard to prevent fires and to protect people from the fires that do occur. I hope that this report can be one weapon in the fight against fire. For more specific information about the fire causes mentioned in the beginning of the piece, check out the statistical reports under "fire causes" on our website. And please--help us help you. What types of fire experience statistics would help you in your work? Let us know by replying directly to this post.