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VERTEX At Fire Scene in Northeastern USFire claims to the insurance industry are costly and understanding the risk of fire is important. The United States Fire Administration functioning under the control of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA compiles statistical fire data annually.  This data, submitted by the nation’s fire departments, highlights the vast array of damage inflicted by fire on the United States. From dollar loss to injuries and deaths, fire is a devastating enemy that the insurance industry monitors closely.

The 2014 National Estimates on Residential Fire Damage

  • 379,500 Fires
  • 2,765 Fire Related Deaths
  • 12,075 Fire Related Injuries
  • $6,900,300,000 Fire Related Dollar Loss

What are the top Causes of Residential Fire Claims?

The leading cause of residential building fires has been consistent since 2005. Cooking fires remain the top producer of home fires, by an extremely large margin. The below numbers from 2014 highlight the top fire causes.

  • Cooking Related*: 189,900 fires
  • Heating Related: 47,600 fires
  • Electrical Malfunction: 23,900 fires
  • Other Unintentional: 22,000 fires (includes careless disposal/discard of smoking materials)

A Closer Look at Cooking Related Fire Claims

Cooking fires increased by 20% from 2005 to 2014. One possible reason, a coding change in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) in 2012. Cooking fires are also the leading cause of fire injuries while Other Unintentional/Careless Fire causes are the leaders in fire deaths.

Good News About Fire Claim Trends

Between 2005 and 2014:

  • Fires have decreased by 3%
  • Deaths have decreased by 4%
  • Injuries have decreased by 5%
  • Dollar losses have decreased by 16%

Why are residential fire damages decreasing?  Fire experts believe it is due in part to an increase in public fire prevention and protection education and laws.

What Else can we learn from Residential Fire Experts?

Review of statistical data from numerous fire protection and prevention organizations, institutions and sources show that children and the elderly are most at risk during a fire. Reasons include mobility, location, the inability to recognize danger and physiological issues such as lung function.  

The importance of building code compliance, fire prevention education and the presence of functioning fire protection safety features such as smoke detection and sprinkler systems cannot be overstated in reviewing the last 10 years of fire cause and loss figures.

Author

Henry W. Stormer, IAAI-CFI

National Division Manager-Fire Investigation