NFPA defines a large-loss fire as one that results in at least $10 million in damage. In 2014, there were 25 large-loss fires, which did almost $654.3 million in direct property losses, writes Steve Badger, . This represented a 19 percent increase from in the number of large-loss fires from the year before, but a decrease of $190.5 million, or 22.6 percent, in associated property losses.
While these fires accounted for just 0.002 percent of the estimated number of fires in 2014, they accounted for 5.6 percent of the total estimated dollar loss, as well as 5 civilian deaths, 15 civilian injuries, and 10 firefighter injuries. Twenty-one of the fires involved structures and resulted in a total property loss of $579.4 million, while the other four fires—three vehicle fires and one wildfire—resulted in combined losses of $74.9 million.
For the first time in several years, the largest of the large-loss fires was not a wildland fire but a pier fire in California, which resulted in more than $100 million in damage. The heavy timber pier, which contained a steel warehouse that had neither automatic detection nor suppression equipment, was 150 feet (46 meters) long and covered 20,000 square feet (1,858 square meters). During the fire, two cargo ships were moved to a safer location, port workers were evacuated, and several shipping terminals were closed. Investigators later determined that the fire was started by a welding operation.
For more in-depth information on last year's large-loss fires, read Badger's article "Large-Loss Fires in the United States in 2014" in the new issue of NFPA Journal. Or visit NFPA's web site for the full report.