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New report shows lower number of fires but increased fire deaths

September 28, 2011

Staff Report

Public fire departments responded to 1,331,500 fires in the United States during 2010, a slight decrease from the previous year and the lowest number since 1977, according to a new report issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

These fires caused an estimated 3,120 civilian fire deaths, a 4 percent increase from a year ago; an estimated 17,720 civilian fire injuries, also a 4 percent increase from the previous year; and more than $11.5 billion in property damage, a significant decrease from the year before.

Fire Loss in the U.S.” analyzes 2010 figures for fires, civilian fire deaths, injuries, property damage, and intentionally-set fires. Estimates are based on data collected from fire departments that responded to NFPA’s Annual National Fire Experience Survey.

An estimated 482,000 structure fires were reported to fire departments in 2010, a very slight increase from a year ago. The number of structure fires was at their peak in 1977, the first year NFPA implemented its current survey methodology, when 1,098,000 structure fires occurred.

We have made tremendous progress in reducing the fire problem in the United States since we began looking at these numbers in the late ’70s,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Communications for NFPA. “But this report shows us that more must be done to bring the numbers down even further. We continue to see the vast majority of deaths occurring in homes, a place where people often feel safest. These survey results will be combined with data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) to determine how often specific fire circumstances occur and where we can most effectively focus our efforts.”

Other key findings from the report include the following:

• A fire department responded to a fire every 24 seconds.

• 384,000 fires, or 80 percent of all structure fires occurred in residential properties.

• About 85 percent of all fire deaths occurred in the home.

• 215,500 vehicle fires occurred in the U.S. during 2010, causing 310 civilian fire deaths, 1,590 civilian fire injuries and $1.4 billion in property damage.

• 634,000 outside and other fires occurred in the U.S. during 2010, causing $501 million in property damage.

USFA is pleased to share in the release of NFPA’s annual fire loss report,” said Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines. “NFPA’s survey is greatly valued by USFA and aids in producing national estimates of more detailed fires and losses, as reported to NFIRS. These combined efforts enable us to analyze the fire problem at a more detailed level and develop prevention strategies to reduce the risk of fire and loss of life and property to the American public.”

To download the full report “Fire Loss in the United States during 2010,” visit www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/os.fireloss.pdf.

From the Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 2011, issue

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