Some of the latest news stories covering recent fires in churches have quoted NFPA research. According to NFPA's 2013 report U.S. Structure Fires in Religious and Funeral Properties, local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 1,780 structure fires per year at churches, other places of worship or funeral parlors during the five-year period of 2007- 2011. Thirty percent of the fires in these properties were caused by cooking and another 16% by heating equipment. Sixteen percent or 280 of the 1,780 structure fires per year at these properties were intentional.
NFPA’s Marty Ahrens says it is not surprising that cooking is the leading cause of fires in these properties, “Places of worship are often used for more than worship. They are often centers of the community and a place where a lot of activity happens.”
She also said it’s important to remember that most fires in places of worship are small. Three out of five reported fires in these properties were confined to the object of origin.
According to news accounts, a possible cause of the latest church fire in South Carolina may have been lightning.
Additional resources can be found at NFPA’s online press room.