Most Fire Deaths Occur at Home

A study released July 11 by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows that there were 3,900 fire fatalities last year in the United States, and, just as in previous years, most (82 percent) of these fatalities occurred in homes.

The total fire death toll decreased slightly by 0.6 percent from 2003, and there was a 1.4-percent increase in fire deaths in homes, according to the study.

The yearly report noted that there was a fire death every 135 minutes in the United States in 2004.

Among the report's other findings:

  • In all, 17,785 people were injured in fires in 2004, a slight decrease of 1.4 percent from the previous year. As with fire deaths, most (77 percent) reported fire injuries occurred in homes, or about 13,700 injuries.
  • There was a fire injury every 30 minutes in the United States in 2004, the study concludes.
  • Property damage from fires decreased by 20.2 percent to approximately $9.8 million. Nearly all of this decrease reflects the absence in 2004 of any fires as large as the two southern California wildfires of 2003, which together produced losses of $2 billion. Of the 2004 total, $8.2 million in damages occurred in structure fires and $5.8 million in homes.
  • In 2004, public fire departments responded to nearly 1.6 million fires in the U.S., a slight decrease of 2.2 percent from the previous year. But there was a slight increase of 1.3 percent in structure fires to 526,000. There also were 266,500 highway vehicle fires, down 6.8 percent from last year.

Recommendations

The report's recommendations for reducing the continuing annual toll of home fires and the injuries and deaths that occur as a result of them are:

  • More widespread public fire safety education to avoid serious injury or death if fire occurs;
  • More use and maintenance of smoke alarms;
  • More development and practice of escape plans;
  • Wider use of residential sprinklers;
  • More fire safety designed into more home products; and
  • More attention to the special fire safety needs of high-risk groups, including the very young, older adults and the poor.

The fire loss report has been issued every year by NFPA since 1977. In that time, reported fires have declined by roughly half and associated fire deaths by nearly half, even though 2004 saw no significant improvement.

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