Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NFPA National Fire Statistics for 2010

The National Fire Protection Association or NFPA just released the statistics for fire loss in the United States during 2010.  Before I share those stats with you, let me introduce you to the NFPA and what they do.

Taken from their website: "The mission of the international nonprofit NFPA, established in 1896, is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus on issues of codes and standards, research, training, and education.
The worlds leading advocate of fire prevention and an authoritative source on public safety,NFPA develops, publishes, and disseminates more than 300 consensus codes and standards intended to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other risks. NFPA membership totals more than 70,000 individuals around the world."

The Hard Numbers

In 2010, fire departments in the United States responded to 1,331,500 fires, according to data received from fire departments that responded to the association's national fire survey.  Compiling the numbers, this indicates a slight decrease of 1.3% from 2009 and is the lowest number of fires since NFPA began using the survey in 1977. 

Structure Fires

An estimated 482,000 structure fires were reported in 2010, an increase of 0.3% or no change from the previous year.  From 1977 to 2010, the number of structure fires peaked in 1977 with 1,098,000 building fires being reported.  The number of structure fires then decreased steadily, particularly in the 80's for an overall reduction of 37%.  In fact from 1989 to 1998, structure fires had decreased overall 25% to 517,000.  Those numbers stayed within that framework until 2009 when the number dropped again to 480,000. 

Residential Structure Fires

384,000 residential fires were reported in 2010 or 80% of all structure fires for an increase of 1.9 percent from the year before. 279,000 of these fires occurred in one-and-two family homes accounting for 58% percent of all residential fires.  Another 90,500 fires occurred in apartments, or 19% of the total fires in residential dwellings.

Notable Changes

Nonresidential fires displayed some significant changes for 2010, including a drop of 17% of fires occurring in public assembly occupancies and an increase of 9% in commercial businesses such as stores and office buildings. 

Vehicle Fires

There were an estimated 184,500 highway vehicle fires in this reporting period for a decrease of 3%.  However, all other vehicle fires not occurring on a highway or roadway experienced an increase of 9%. 

Outside Fires

From 1977 to 2009, the number of outside fires peaked in 1977 when 1,658,500 fires were reported.  The numbers decreased during the next six years to 1,011,000 in 1983 or a reduction of 39%.  The numbers remained flat until 1988 when 1,214,000 fires had occurred.  In 1993 the number of outside fires hovered around 1 million and stayed that way for the next three years.  The number for 2010 stands at 634,000. 

Vegetation Fires

An estimated 304,000 brush fires occurred in wildland areas for no change from the year before.  There were also an estimated 173,000 trash fires or no change from 2009.

Civilian Fire Deaths

3,120 civilians lost there lives to fire in 2010. This is an increase of 4% from the year before.  A better understanding of why the increase, can be found by examining the property types involved in these grim statistics.

Deaths in Residential Fires

An estimated 2,665 souls perished in home fires during 2010.  Of these deaths, 440 occurred in apartment fires and another 2,200 died in one-and-two family structures for a total increase of 4.8%.  In all, fires in the home which includes single family, manufactured and apartments resulted in 2,640 deaths or 2.9% more than the year before.

Looking At the Trends

Several trends are worth noting in regards to residential fire deaths.  Home fire deaths peaked in 1978 with 6,015 fatalities but have gone on a steady decline reaching an all time low in the 2,500 to 3,000 range or a 55% decrease at the present time.  It is also noted that during the same period, 1977-present, home fires have also fell for a total of 49%.  However, when we look at the death rate per 1,000 homes, we see no steady decline. 

The Five Point Plan

With home fire deaths still at an unacceptable rate of 85% of all civilian deaths, fire safety and education will remain the top priority for NFPA going into 2012 and beyond. This goal will be carried out by a five point strategy to reduce serious injury and death in residential structures.

1. More widespread public fire safety education on preventing fires and avoiding serious death or injury.

2. More people must use and maintain smoke detectors and develop a plan of escape should fire occur.

3. We must aggressively petition for the mandate that all residential structures built in the future be protected by automatic sprinklers.

4. Stricter fire standards for upholstered furniture like mattresses that are more resistant to ignition from cigarettes.

5. Continue to address the special fire safety needs of the young and the elderly.

Civilian Fire Injuries

An estimated 17,720 civilians were injured in fires last year in 2010.  This represents an increase of 4% from the year before and is the highest number since 2005 when 17,925 were injured.

Injuries are Under reported

Many fire injuries are not reported to the fire department. Additionally, many injuries occur from small fires to which the fire departments do not respond and therefore are unaware of victims that they may have otherwise attended too. 

Property Loss

Fires caused $11.6 billion in property damage in 2010, a significant decrease of 7.5% from 2009.  Fires in structures resulted in $10 billion in property damage, again a noticeable decrease of 10.5% from the previous year.  The average loss per structure fire in 2010 was $20,000 per fire.  Adjusted for inflation, the average structure fire loss increased 436% from 1977 to present time.

Other property damage worth mentioning include $420 million in public assembly properties, a decrease of 9% from 2009 and $515 million in industrial real estate, also a decrease of 10% from the previous year. 

A word about property loss totals: amounts can change dramatically from year to year due to one or more large loss fires such as multiple warehouses or a huge wildland fire with structures destroyed or damaged from the fire.

NFPA estimates put incendiary fires at 27,500 in 2010, an increase of 3.8% from 2009.  These fires took the lives of an estimated 200 citizens, an increase of 18% from the previous year.

There were also an estimated 14,000 intentionally set vehicle fires in 2010 resulting in $90 million in property loss.


Every 24 seconds there is a reported fire in the United States.  A fire occurs inside a structure at the rate of one every 65 seconds and in homes every 82 seconds.  Nationwide, there was a fire death every 169 minutes last year and a fire injury every 30 minutes.  It is my goal at Phoenix Safety and Investigative Consultants in conjunction with the NFPA to reduce the tragedy that fire brings to many every day.  Most of these fires can be avoided with education and the use of modern day fire protection equipment.

If you are old enough to remember, the auto industry fought for years to keep air bags out of automobiles due to the cost.  And having responded to hundreds of vehicle accidents during my 31 year career in fire and law enforcement, I can tell you first hand that injuries and fatalities in automobile accidents today are only a fraction of what they used to be due to the installation of airbags. Because of politics and money, many lives were forever changed or ended unnecessarily because of greediness of the auto industry.  The same can be said of the building industry and the lobbyist for them that continue to stand in the way of fire codes that would have the same effect on fire fatalities and injuries as air bags did for the driving public. 

1 comment:

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