Nearly all structure fire deaths happen in homes—a toll that averages 2,850 civilian deaths each year, according to a new study by the National Fire Protection Association.
The association conducts extensive research into fires in every structure type, from prisons and schools to shopping malls, high-rise hotels and industrial sites
But the most dangerous structure turns out to be the home, where 92% of fire deaths occur, the study found.
“This study strongly underscores the need to aggressively work to reduce the number of home fires in this country in order to save lives from fire,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of communications.
NFPA is a nonprofit association that develops, provides and advocates fire-related consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.
A half-dozen association standards relate to fire-retardant coatings. Last year, NFPA released a 2009 edition of “NFPA 703: Standard for Fire-Retardant Treated Wood and Fire-Retardant Coatings for Building Materials.” The standard provides enforcers, engineers and architects with what NFPA calls “the industry's most advanced criteria for defining and identifying fire retardant-treated wood and fire-retardant coatings for building materials.”
From 2003 to 2007, U.S. fire departments responded to about 380,000 home fires annually—fires that resulted in a large number of civilian deaths; 13,160 reported injuries; and $6.4 billion in direct property damage each year.
Smoking materials caused the largest number of fire deaths during that period. Heating equipment was the second most common cause.
The leading cause of the home fires themselves continues to be cooking equipment; the association found: 41% of home fires started in the kitchen area.
Other key findings include:
• Reported home fires peaked around dinner hours of 5 to 8 p.m.
• Only 20% of the reported home fires occurred between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., but they caused 52% of the home-fire deaths.
• December, January and February accounted for 30% of reported home structure fires and 38% of home fire deaths.
• Reported apartment fires were more likely to have started in the kitchen than fires in single- and two-family homes.
• The items first ignited in home fire deaths are upholstered furniture (21%), followed by mattresses and bedding (31%).
• 40% of fatal home fire injuries occurred in properties without smoke alarms.
Learn more at www.nfpa.org.