Most home fires result from five general causes

Blog Post created by martyahrens Employee on Sep 30, 2016

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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% of reported home fires, 91% of home fire deaths, and 82% of home fire injuries.

  1. Cooking equipment was the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, causing 46% of home fires that resulted in 19% of the home fire deaths and 44% of the injuries.
  2. Heating equipment caused 16% of home fires, 19% of the deaths, and 12% of the injuries.
  3. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment caused 8% of the fires, 16% of the deaths, and 9% of the injuries.
  4. Eight percent of home structure fires were intentionally set.  These fires caused 14% of the deaths and 7% of the injuries.
  5. While only 5% of home fires were started by smoking materials, these fires caused 22% of the deaths and 10% of the injuries.


Download the 2016 Home Structure Fires report.


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% 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%) or at least one alarm was present but none operated (19%). Ensuring that every home has working smoke alarms is critical. NFPA's page on smoke alarms has educational materials for local use.


Fire sprinklers were present in only 7% of reported home fires.  The death rate per 1,000 reported home fires when wet-pipe sprinklers were present was 79% 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 to help you.  What types of fire experience statistics would help you in your work?  Those of us who work in offices want to learn from those out in the field.