Are people safer from home fires than they used to be, or are they at greater risk? For the average American, it may be hard to know. Tune into just about any local news station, where home fires are covered quite frequently, and it may seem like they’re on the rise. Meanwhile, NFPA surveys show that people think they’re safest from fire at home (it’s actually the place they’re at greatest risk), which suggests that many people think their risk to fire is low.
Two reports recently released by NFPA offer a realistic snapshot of Americans’ risk to home fires, as well as when and where they’re happening.
Findings from the reports show that home fires and home fire deaths declined by about 50% since 1980, according to reported estimates. However, the 7.8 deaths per 1,000 reported home fires reflects a 10% increase over the 7.1 rate in 1980. In other words, while the number of U.S. home fires and home fire deaths has significantly declined over the past few decades, the death rate per 1,000 reported fires is actually a little higher. These numbers show that while we’ve made much progress in preventing fires, we still have a lot of work to do in mitigating their effects when they do happen.
Leading causes of home fires
From 2011 to 2015, cooking remained the leading cause of home fires, causing almost half of reported fires (47%) and home fire injuries (45%). Cooking was also the second leading cause of home fire deaths. Heating was the second-leading cause of home fires (15%) and home fire injuries and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. Electrical distribution and lighting equipment was involved in 9% of the fires, 18% of the deaths, and 10% of the injuries. Only 5% of home fires were started by smoking materials, but these fires caused 22% of the home fire deaths, and 10% of the injuries.
A wealth of additional information on when and where U.S. home fires are happening, along with their impact on lives and property, can be found in two recently released NFPA reports: Home Structure Fires and Fire Loss in the United States during 2016.