Facts on Fire

Fire in the United States

  • The U.S. has one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world.
  • About 5,000 people die every year in this country as the result of fire, and another 25,500 are injured.
  • About 100 firefighters are killed annually in duty-related incidents.
  • Each year, fire kills more Americans than all other natural disasters combined.
  • Fire is the 3rd leading cause of accidental death in the home - at least 80% of all fire deaths occur in residences.
  • More than 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 $9.4 billion annually.

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 detectors and smolder-resistant bedding and upholstered furniture are significant fire deterrents.
  • Heating is the 2nd leading cause of residential fires and ties with arson as the 2nd 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 3rd leading cause of residential fires and a 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 5 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 5 is nearly double the risk of the average population.
  • Children under the age of 10 accounted for an estimated 20% of all fire deaths in 1995.
  • Over 30% 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% of U.S. homes have at least 1 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 10 years in the number of fires that occur in homes with non-functioning alarms.
  • It is estimated that over 40% of residential fires and 60% 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.