Friday, August 9, 2013



According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths from fires and burn injuries are the third leading cause of fatal home injuries in the U.S. (Runyan, 2004).  Of the 25 developed countries surveyed in 2009, the United States ranked the eighth highest in deaths from fire related injuries. (International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics, 2009).

Although its true that residential fires and their related deaths have been on the decline for several decades now, the CDC is quick to point out that many residential fires remain totally preventable and continue to "pose a significant public health problem."

Occurrence and Consequences

  • On average in the United States in 2010, someone died in a fire every 169 minutes, and someone was injured every 30 minutes. (Karter, 2011)
  • About 85% of all U.S. fire deaths in 2009 occurred in homes. (Karter, 2011)
  • In 2010, fire departments responded to 384,000 home fires in the United States, which claimed the lives of 2,640 people and injured another 13,350. (all statistics do not include firefighters)
  • Most victims of fires die from smoke or toxic gases and not from burns. (Hall, 2001)
  • Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths. (Ahrens, 2011)
  • Cooking is the primary cause of residential fires. (Ahrens, 2011)

Fire and burn injuries represent 1% of the incidence of injuries and 2% of the total costs of injuries, or $7.5 billion each year. (Finkelstein, 2006)

  • Males account for $4.8 billion or 64% of the total costs of fire/burn injuries.
  • Females account for $2.7 billion or 36% of the total costs of fire/burn injuries.
  • Fatal fire and burn injuries total $1 billion, or 1% of the total cost of all hospitalized injuries.
  • Hospitalized fire and burn injuries total $1 billion, or 1% of the total cost of all hospitalized injuries.
  • Non-hospitalized fire and burn injuries cost $3 billion, or 2% of the total cost of all non-hospitalized injuries.
Groups at Risk

Groups at increased risk of fire-related injuries and deaths include:

  • Children 4 and under. (CDC 2010; Flynn 2010)
  • Seniors 65 and older.  (CDC 2010; Flynn 2010)
  • African Americans and Native Americans (CDC 2010; Flynn 2010)
  • The poorest Americans.  (Istre 2001; Flynn 2010)
  • Persons living in rural areas. (Aherns 2003; Flynn 2010)
  • Persons living in manufactured homes (mobile homes) or substandard housing. (Runyan 1992; Parker, 1993)
Risk Factors

  • Over one-third or 37% of home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms. (Aherns, 2011)
  • Most residential fires occur during the winter months. (CDC 1998; Flynn)
  • Alcohol use contributes to an estimated 40% of residential fire deaths. (Smith 1999)

For the Fire Science Student

  • Ahrens, M.  The U.S. fire problem overview report: leading causes and other patterns and trends.  Quincy (MA): NFPA; 2003.
  • Ahrens, M.  Home Structure Fires. Quincy, (MA): NFPA, 2011.
  • Ahrens, M.  Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires, Quincy, (MA): NFPA; 2009.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Deaths Resulting from Residential Fires and the Prevalence of Smoke Alarms-United States 1991-1995.  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 1998; 47(38): 803-6.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online], 2010.  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer).  Available from: (  [Cited 2010 Sept. 21]
  • Finkelstein EA, Corso PS, Miller TR, Associates.  Incidence and Economic Burden of Injuries in the United States.  New York: Oxford University Press; 2006.
  • Flynn JD.  Characteristics of Home Fire Victims.  Quincy (MA): NFPA; 2010.
  • Hall, J.R.  Burns, Toxic Gases, and Other Hazards Associated with Fires:  Deaths and Injuries in Fire and Non-Fire Situations.  Quincy (MA): NFPA, Fire and Analysis and Research Division; 2001.
  • International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics.  World Fire Statistics: Information Bulletin of the World Fire Statistics.  Geneva, Switzerland: The Geneva Association; 2010.
  • Istre G.R., McCoy MA, Osborn L, Barnard J.J, Bolton A.  Deaths and Injuries From House Fires.  New England Journal of Medicine, 2001; 344:1911-16.
  • Karter, M.J.  Fire Loss in the United States during 2010,. Quincy (MA): NFPA, Fire Analysis and Research Division, 2011.
  • Parker, D.J., Sklar DP, Tandberg D, Hauswald M, Zumwalt R.E.  Fire Fatalities Among New Mexico Children.  Annals of Emergency Medicine, 1993; 22(3):517-22.
  • Runyan, C.W., Bangdiwala S.I., Linzer, M.A., Sacks, J.J., Butts J.  Risk Factors for Fatal Residential fires.  New England Journal of Medicine, 1992; 327(12):859-63.
  • Runyan, C.W., Casteel, C. (Eds).  The State of Home Safety in America: Facts About Unintentional Injuries in the Home, 2nd Edition.  Washington, D.C.: Home Safety Council, 2004.
  • Smith, G.S., Branas, C., Miller, T.R., Fatal Nontraffic Injuries Involving Alcohol: A Meta-Analysis.  Annuals of Emergency Medicine, 1993; 33(6):659-68.
Related Resources

  • Stay Safe from Home Fires (
  • Protect The Ones You Love: Burns (/safechild/burns/index.html)
  • CDC Activities (/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Fire-Prevention/fireactivities.htm)
  • Prevention Tips (/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Fire-Prevention/fireprevention.htm)
  • Chart of State-Level Smoking and Residential Fire Death Rates, 2004, [31KB PDF].

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