Fire Safety Information

Fire Deaths and Injuries: Fact Sheet

Content provided by the Centers for Disease Control

Deaths from fires and burns are the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States (CDC 2005) and the third leading cause of fatal home injury (Runyan 2004). The United State’s mortality rate from fires ranks sixth among the 25 developed countries for which statistics are available (International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics 2003).

Although the number of fatalities and injuries caused by residential fires has declined gradually over the past several decades, many residential fire-related deaths remain preventable and continue to pose a significant public health problem.

Occurrence and Consequences

  • On average in the United States in 2005, someone died in a fire about every 2 hours (143 minutes), and someone was injured every 29 minutes (Karter 2006).
  • Four out of five U.S. fire deaths in 2005 occurred in homes (Karter 2006).
  • In 2005, fire departments responded to 396,000 home fires in the United States, which claimed the lives of 3,030 people (not including firefighters) and injured another 13,825, not including firefighters (Karter 2006).
  • 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 2003).
  • Cooking is the primary cause of residential fires (Ahrens 2003).

Costs

  • In 2005, residential fires caused nearly $7 billion in property damage (Karter 2006).
  • 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 et al. 2006).
  • Males account for $4.8 billion (64%) of the total costs of fire/burn injuries.
  • Females account for $2.7 billion (36%) of the total costs of fire/burn injuries.
  • Fatal fire and burn injuries cost $3 billion, representing 2% of the total costs of all fatal 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 1998);
  • Older Adults ages 65 and older (CDC 1998);
  • African Americans and Native Americans (CDC 1998);
  • The poorest Americans (Istre 2001);
  • Persons living in rural areas (Ahrens 2003);
  • Persons living in manufactured homes or substandard housing (Runyan 1992; Parker 1993).

Risk Factors

  • Approximately half of home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms (Ahrens 2004).
  • Most residential fires occur during the winter months (CDC 1998).
  • Alcohol use contributes to an estimated 40% of residential fire deaths (Smith 1999).

References

Ahrens M. The U.S. fire problem overview report: leading causes and other patterns and trends. Quincy (MA): National Fire Protection Association; 2003.

Ahrens M. U.S. experience with smoke alarms and other fire alarms. Quincy (MA): National Fire Protection Association; 2004.

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, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). National vital statistics system.  Hyattsville  (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 1998.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2005). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). Available from: URL: . [Cited 2006 Aug 21].

Finkelstein EA, Corso PS, Miller TR, Associates. Incidence and Economic Burden of Injuries in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press; 2006.

Hall JR. Burns, toxic gases, and other hazards associated with fires: Deaths and injuries in fire and non-fire situations. Quincy (MA): National Fire Protection Association, Fire 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; 2003.

Istre GR, McCoy MA, Osborn L, Barnard JJ, Bolton A.  Deaths and injuries from house fires.  New England Journal of Medicine 2001;344:1911–16.

Karter MJ. Fire loss in the United States during 2005, Abridged report. Quincy (MA): National Fire Protection Association, Fire Analysis and Research Division; 2006.

Parker DJ, Sklar DP, Tandberg D, Hauswald M, Zumwalt RE.  Fire fatalities among New Mexico children.  Annals of Emergency Medicine 1993;22(3):517–22.

Runyan CW, Bangdiwala SI, Linzer MA, Sacks JJ, Butts J. Risk factors for fatal residential fires. New England Journal of Medicine 1992;327(12):859–63.

Runyan SW, 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 GS, Branas C, Miller TR.  Fatal nontraffic injuries involving alcohol: a meta-analysis.  Annals of Emergency Medicine 1999;33(6):659–68.

Courtesy: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Fire deaths and injuries” is available at: . This information may have changed or been updated since it was accessed. For the most current information, contact the NCIPC at .