Residential Fire Facts

In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening.  In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames.  The following are facts and statistics related to residential fires and compiled by the National Fire Protection Association.  Knowing these facts can help reduce the chance of a home fire and will increase your odds of survival if a fire should occur.
General Fire Facts
  • Heat is more threatening than the flames of a fire.  Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees Fahrenheit at floor level and rise to above 600 degrees Fahrenheit at eye level.  Inhaling this super-hot air will scorch your lungs and melt clothes to your skin.
  • Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke and complete darkness.
  • Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do.  Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy.  Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.
Home Fires
  • Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.  Only one in five home fires were reported during these hours.
  • One-quarter of home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom.  Another quarter resulted from fires in the living room, family room or den.
  • Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in home with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. 
  • In 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 365,000 home structure fires.  These fires caused 2,560 deaths, 11,075 civilian injuries and $7 billion in direct damage.
  • On average, seven people die in U.S. home fires per day.
  • Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.
  • Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths.
  • Most fatal fires kill one or two people.
  • During 2010-2014, roughly one of every 338 households reported a home fire per year.
Escape Planning
  • According to a survey by the National Fire Protection Association, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
  • In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 94% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated 80% of the time.
  • When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because the batteries are missing, disconnected or dead.
  • An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires.  For the best protection, or where extra time is needed to awaken or assist others, both types of alarms, or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms are recommended.
  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 166,100 home cooking-related fires between 2010-2014 resulting in 480 civilian deaths, 5,540 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct damage.
  • Two out of every five (43%) home fires started in the kitchen.
  • Unattended cooking was a factor in one-third of reported home cooking fires.
  • Two-thirds of home cooking fires started with ignition of food or other cooking materials.
  • Ranges accounted for three of every five (62%) home cooking fire incidents.  Ovens accounted for 13%.
  • Children under five face a higher risk of non-fire burns associated with cooking and hot food and drinks than of being hurt in a cooking fire.
  • Children under five accounted for 30% of the 4,300 microwave oven scald burns seen in hospital emergency rooms during 2014.
  • Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1% of home cooking fires, but these incidents accounted for 18% of the cooking fire deaths.
  • More than half of people injured in home fires involving cooking equipment were hurt while attempting to fight the fire themselves.
  • Frying is the leading activity associated with cooking fires.
  • The leading factor contributing to heating equipment fires was failure to clean.  This usually involved creosote build-up in chimneys.
  • Portable or fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, were involved in two of every five (40%) of home heating fires and accounted for 84% of the home heating deaths.
  • Over half (56%) of home heating fire deaths resulted from fires caused by heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
  • In most years, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires, fire deaths and fire injuries.
Home Fire Sprinklers
  • If you have reported a fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80% when sprinklers are present.
  • Sprinklers reduce direct property damage by about 70% per fire.
  • Research shows that when sprinklers were present during a fire, the fire is kept to the room of origin 97% of the time.
  • Roughly 85% of the time, just one sprinkler operates during a fire.
  • Each individual sprinkler is designed and calibrated to go off only when it senses a significant heat change.
  • Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water directly on the fire.