Every 23 seconds a public fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the U.S. What’s the chance the fire department will put out a fire at your home in your lifetime?
The chance the fire department will put out a fire at your home in your lifetime = 1 in 4.
The chance someone in your household will have a fire injury in an average lifetime = 1 in 10.
Including smaller, “no reported damage” fires, an average household will experience 5 fires in your lifetime.
That means the odds are excellent that someone in this room already has experienced a fire at home.
Fire departments handled 1,331,500 fires in 2010 in the U.S.
That was the lowest number since 1977. (1977 was the first year of NFPA reporting.)
All data from Fire Loss in the U.S., the latest report from the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association),
issued Sept. 15, 2011.
For a copy of the report (759 KB), DOWNLOAD HERE: os.fireloss
3,120 civilians killed,17,720 civilian fire injuries, and over $11.5 billion in property damage resulted from our
2010 fires, in total. Home fires caused 2,640 – 85% – of the civilian deaths. $7.1 billion of the property loss was in residential fires.
But wait! There’s more!!
Today’s number is the latest in a long, steady, 30-year downward trend in home fires. A lot of us have been working on this, for a long time. A steady trend line over decades is no accident. There’s a reason. This steady reduction in home fires, deaths, and injuries is the success of the combined efforts of many professionals – fire researchers, like NFPA and CPSC; policymakers from the International Code Council to legislators to building departments; builders; code enforcement officers, real estate professionals, lenders – and, your professional home inspector. Home fires caused 85% of civilian fire deaths and 74% of fire injuries. Home fires lit up at the rate of 1 every 82 seconds, in 2010. Children 5 and under, and the elderly, face the highest risk of death by home fire. Not you. Your kids, your grandchildren, and your parents.
THE 21st CENTURY’S HOTTEST SUREFIRE KEYS TO
TORCHING YOUR HOME
TECHNIQUE #1: MAX OUT YOUR CHANCES TO BE A VICTIM
- Pass out on the couch. Do it right after you lit some candles for mood lighting.
Among those burned to death:
● About a third (30%) were asleep.
● About a sixth were drunk (12%) or on drugs (5%).
● Interestingly, alcohol use is negatively correlated with unintentional home fire ignition; it is only a factor in survival (death rates).
● Around a seventh (14%) were physically handicapped or disabled.
HOT TICKET TECHNIQUE #2: KITCHEN FIRES ARE POPULAR
First, get the cheapest electric range you can find, on a “scratch & dent” clearance. Everybody knows ranges are all the same and no one could buy one recalled for fire hazards. Then when it starts to click, or smell funny, bet it will “just go away someday.”
Then, put supper on the stove, go to the bathroom, answer the phone, and take the pets out to pee. Make sure you haven’t checked your smoke alarms or charged your fire extinguishers in the last two years.
● Cooking is the leading source of home fires and injuries, but down the list in deaths and damage.
● 154,700 home fires were touched off by cooking equipment in 2004-2008.
● They caused 460 deaths, 4,850 injuries, $724 million in property damage.
● Cooking equipment was involved in 2 of every 5 reported home fires (41%), 1 of every 6 home fire deaths (17%), and 1 of every 3 home fire injuries (37%).
● Over half those fires started at the range (59%) but barely 1 in 6 at the oven (17%). Electric ranges have a significantly higher risks of fire and losses than gas.
● 83% of frying fires began in the first 15 minutes of cooking, a 1993 CPSC study found.
● Of all variables contributing to cooking fires, unattended cooking led the pack by a wide margin.
● Contrary to TV legend, torching your clothes was the first item ignited in less than 1% of these fires.
3 of every 5 non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occurred when the victim tried to fight the fire themselves (usually without an extinguisher).
● Natural gas only accounted for 2,410 home fires. A tiny sliver – 43 deaths, $48 million property damage. The leading area of origin was the kitchen.
● Home fires involving “not for cooking” kitchen equipment – mostly dishwashers and refrigerators – ignited about 2,800 reported home fires in 2006, the latest tally.
● 100 deaths, $73 million in property, lost.
● The person most likely to be cooking when a cooking fire starts is a young adult female. The person most likely to be killed in a home cooking fire is an older adult male. Chivalry is not dead. Just the chivalrous.
● Non-fire cooking-related burns sent 17,300 to ER’s in 2009, the CPSC reported. Here’s a surprise: Most (57%) were tableware scalds.
● Microwave ovens produce more scald burns than any other device.
Unlike cooking, the other leading causes are seasonal. Heating equipment lights up in December, January and February, when 50% of heating fires ignite.
Do I really have to say “Call a Pro”?
TECHNIQUE #3: LIGHTING UP YOUR LIFE FAVORITE FIREBUG BURN
Everybody knows furnaces last forever. So service contracts are just a rip off. They’ll get you anyway. Ask Perry. That smell when the furnace fires up is probably just cobwebs in the ducts. Funny — there weren’t any cobwebs to sweep off anywhere else in the house.
It’s a good thing that smoke detector beside the furnace stopped chirping when you took the battery out. What a nuisance! And all that baloney about checking smoke detectors and CO detectors is just to sell more detectors. If the alarm never goes off, the battery will last forever. If the battery was bad, it would light up or something. Right?
Furnace, Fireplaces & Chimneys
● Heating equipment ranks second for causing home fires, deaths and injuries. The main reason heating is second is that it’s seasonal. Cooking is year-‘round.
● Furnaces ignited 17% of fires, causing 17% of fatalities, in 2004-08. That rose to 21% of fatalities in 2009.
● 66,100 home fires began home heating equipment in 2008.
● 480 civilian deaths, 1,660 injuries, $1.1 billion in property damage.
●Among the “usual suspects” for ignition, fireplaces top this list (36%), followed by space heaters (32% – but 82% of deaths), with central heating units (17%) and hot water heaters (11%).
Creosote – as in chimneys – is involved in 23% of home heating fires, or about 15,200 fires per year.
● 480 people, on average, died each year since 2001 from unintentional CO exposure, the CDC reported. 15,200 people a year were treated for CO poisoning.
● Another 166 deaths per year from unintentional CO poisoning by other consumer products were reported by the CPSC.
TECHNIQUE #4: HOW TO LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE FAVORITE FIREBUG BURN-DOWN
Just promise yourself one day you really will find an electrician to figure out why the circuit breaker keeps flipping. Maybe he can even fix that outlet in the bedroom that doesn’t work. ‘Til then, there are plenty of other outlets you can use. Besides, most of the time, when the breaker trips, it’s just a rainy day.
● Electrical equipment is the fourth greatest source of home fires.
● 50,900 home fires started with electrical ignitions.
● 350 deaths, $709 million property loss.
● Electrical failure or malfunction produced 72% of the fires.
● 2 out of 5 people got killed hanging around the living room, family room, or den.
● Older wiring increases the risk of home fires, the CPSC reported. Most older systems were installed “to code” and are “grandfathered” in KY.
TECHNIQUE #5: HOW TO LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE FIREBUG FAVORITE
Candles are sooo romantic. And aromatic. Don’t you love the way they dance, and throw shadows on the bedroom wall, every night when you go to sleep. Maybe the inspector suggested clearing them out of bedrooms, but he’s a killjoy.
● Candles are the fourth leading cause of home fire injuries.
●Candles were good for 15,260 house fires each year from 2003-07.
● 166 deaths, $450 million property damage.
● 42 candle fires a day are reported to U.S. fire departments.
One third began in bedrooms. You really light up my life.
It can be embarrassing. In Louisville, a federal judge died in candle fire at home in bed – where he was body bagged beside the late mayor’s widow.
TECHNIQUE #6: HOW TO LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE FIREBUG FAVORITE
You should’ve seen it when lightning hit the neighbor’s tree. It was spectacular – like the fourth of July, or Thunder. Maybe I should double-check those “lightning rod” things the inspector said were disconnected, or something. I forget.
Anyhow, if there’s lots of lightning, I know what to do. I’m no dummy. I play golf. Just seek shelter under a tree. Or…are you supposed to stay out in the open? It’ll come to me.
● About 24,600 fires a year – of all kinds – were started by lightning.
● 12 deaths, $407 million property damage.
● Only 18% occurred in homes, but those accounted for 88% of civilian deaths, 77% of injuries, and 70% of property damage.
Want to max out your odds of doing a Ben Franklin – but not living to tell about it?
Your best shot at becoming a number on next year’s chart of fatals is:
• standing in the open when lightning arrives (46%)
• standing under a tree (26%).
The next best magnets are boats (6%), ball fields or golfing (5% each), camping (4%), swimming (DUH – 2%), heavy equipment ties with talking on the phone (1% each).
TECHNIQUE #7: HOW TO LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE FIREBUG FAVORITE
That dryer has “cyclone turbo-power.” As soon as you saw that ad, you bought. And it’s worked like a champ, what, 10, maybe 11, years now. Never a hitch. Didn’t need a thing. The vent looks a little fuzy sometimes, but it’s working fine. The inspector said something about a long, flexible brush, like a bottle brush, to clean the dryer vent. He talked about “flex ducts” needing to be cleaned, more than slick metal ducts. I didn’t do half the stuff he said. That dryer has taken a lick’n from all our laundry and it keeps on tickin’. It was here when I bought the house and it’ll be here when I leave.
Right. In a zip-up bag with a toe tag.
● 17,700 house fires started in laundry (at last count, 2006) – 92% at the clothes dryer.
● 360 civilian deaths, and $194 million in property damage started there
TECHNIQUE #8: HOT TICKET TO FLAME FAME
You are the Grill Meister, the Smoker Supreme. The secret is turning the gas all the way up and closing it for an hour or two while you get those marinades, meats, sauces, and ears of corn ready. Better still if you leave the grill up against the siding in the screen porch.
● 7,700 fires involved grills, barbeques, and hibachis.
• That was made up of 3,200 structure fires and 4,500 outside fires.
● They led to 13 civilian deaths, and $70 million property damage.
Four out of five grills involved in home fires were fueled with gas (not charcoal). Grills also led to 17,700 ER visits that year.
TECHNIQUE #9: HOT TICKET TO FLAME FAME
You especially like that velour sofa with the ashtrays built right into each arm. They thought of everything. Great place to smooch by candlelight.
● Upholstered furniture was the first item ignited in 7,050 home fires.
● 500 civilian deaths, $442 million property damage.
HOT FLASHES A ROUNDUP OF “USUAL SUSPECTS” AT 10th PLACE
- Air conditioning equipment and fans accounted for 7,200 home fires at last count. The AC equipment was 2,500 of them.
● 13 deaths, $58 million in property damage.
● Children playing with fire were less likely to torch their home than something else.
¤ There were about 7,900 home structure fires started by kids with matches and lighters, in 2008, compared to 57,700 total fires cause by kids playing with fire.
• At home, 25% of the items first ignited were mattresses or bedding.
• 65% of all deaths in child-playing fires were children 5 years old or younger.
• Arson was the third most common source of home fires.
Crime may be down for 2010, but “Italian lightning” is up.
This is just the “headlines” – the 10 minute Readers Digest condensed version.
As a public service, InspectHomes4U – through its school, Professional Learning Institute4U, or PLI – provides seminars and discussion leaders, with free seminar materials.
Think of home inspections a lot like you think of Coast Guard boat inspections, or your family doctor.
Sure, you need a InspectHomes4U inspection when you buy a house. Smart Sellers get an elite home inspection by InspectHomes4U pre-listing inspection before they sell a house.
But if you care about safety – yours, of course; your family’s; your guests; and your neighbors – a “checkup” every five years or so is worthwhile.
Call InspectHomes4U for a checklist about caring for your home. Let’s keep our houses safe and protect our family and loved ones.
Educational Links from NFPA
There are many ways to protect your family from fires. Read how to protect yourself and your family from the NFPA.
Fire Safety Tips For Adults
Information and safety tips for kids. Read how to make a map of your home.
Fire Safety Tips For Kids
81% of non-confirmed house fires began in the laundry room. Read how 92% of the fires began in the clothes dryers.
DOWNLOAD Clothes Dryers Fact Sheet: DryerFactSheet
Candles are pretty to look at but they cause house fires. One third of home candle fires start in the bedroom.
DOWNLOAD Candles Fact Sheet: candlefactsheet
Flipping a light switch, plugging in a coffeemaker, charging a laptop computer or cell phone, etc., are all second nature to us. We need to be cautious and be safe. Read more about how to be safe when using electricity.
DOWNLOAD Fire Safety Tips Electrical Fact Sheet: Electrical_Safety_Tips
Heating Equipment fires accounted for 17% of all reported home fires in 2008.
DOWNLOAD Heating Fact Sheet: Home_Heating_Fact_Sheet
Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and associated civilian injuries and the third leading cause of home fire deaths.
Download Cooking Fact Sheet: Cookingfactsheet
One in every five (19%) of microwave oven house structure fires cited appliance housing or casing as the item first ignited.
DOWNLOAD Microwave fact Sheet: Microwavefactsheet
Each year fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 people, injure 1,650 more, and cause over $990 million in damage. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), there are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of the outlined precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.