The U.S. has one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world. For 1997, the U.S. fire death rate was 15.2 deaths per million population.
Between 1993 and 1997, an average of 4,500 Americans lost their lives and another 26,500 were injured annually as the result of fire.
About 100 firefighters are killed each year in duty-related incidents.
Each year, fire kills more Americans than all natural disasters combined.
Fire is the third leading cause of accidental death in the home; at least 80 percent of all fire deaths occur in residences.
About 2 million fires are reported each year. Many others go unreported, causing additional injuries and property loss.
Direct property loss due to fires is estimated at $8.5 billion annually.
Where Fires Occur
There were 1,795,000 fires in the United States in 1997. Of these:
40% were Outside Fires
31% were Structure Fires
22% were Vehicle Fires
7 % were fires of other types
Residential fires represent 23 percent of all fires and 74 percent of structure fires.
Fires in the home most often start in the:
Living Room 7%
Laundry Area 4%
The South and Northeast share the highest fire death rate per-capita with 17.5 civilian deaths per million population.
84 percent of all fatalities occur in the home. Of those, approximately 80 percent occur in single-family homes and duplexes.
Causes of Fires and Fire Deaths
Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. It is also the leading cause of fire injuries. Cooking fires often result from unattended cooking and human error, rather than mechanical failure of stoves or ovens.
Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths. Smoke alarms and smolder-resistant bedding and upholstered furniture are significant fire deterrents.
Heating is the second leading cause of residential fires and ties with arson as the second leading cause of fire deaths. However, heating fires are a larger problem in single family homes than in apartments. Unlike apartments, the heating systems in single family homes are often not professionally maintained.
Arson is the third leading cause of residential fires and the second leading cause of residential fire deaths. In commercial properties, arson is the major cause of deaths, injuries, and dollar loss.
Who is Most at Risk
Senior citizens and children under the age of five have the greatest risk of fire death.
The fire death risk among seniors is more than double the average population.
The fire death risk for children under age five is nearly double the risk of the average population.
Children under the age of ten accounted for an estimated 18 percent of all fire deaths in 1995.
Over 30 percent of the fires that kill young children are started by children playing with fire.
Men die or are injured in fires twice as often as women.
What Saves Lives
A working smoke alarm dramatically increases a person's chance of surviving a fire.
Approximately 90 percent of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm. However, these alarms are not always properly maintained and as a result might not work in an emergency. There has been a disturbing increase over the last ten years in the number of fires that occur in homes with non-functioning alarms.
It is estimated that over 40 percent of residential fires and three-fifths of residential fatalities occur in homes with no smoke alarms.
Residential sprinklers have become more cost effective for homes. Currently, few homes are protected by them.
Facts provided by the United States Fire Administration