Most lightning fatalities are people struck by lightning, not deaths in fires.

NFPA Produces Report on Lightning Fires

From 2004 to 2008, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 24,600 lightning fires per year. The report says the Sago Mine explosion in January 2006 was one of the deadliest fires caused by lightning in recent years.

Fires caused by lightning cause a surprisingly high number of casualties and more damage than might be expected, according to a report now available from the National Fire Protection Association's Fire Analysis and Research Division. "Lightning Fires and Lightning Strikes" by Ben Evarts says in the four years from 2004 to 2008, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 24,600 fires started by lightning annually, and those fires caused an estimated average of 12 civilian deaths, 47 civilian injuries, and $407 million in direct property damage per year.

Most of the fires occur outdoors, but most of the deaths, injuries, and damage in them came from home fires. Fires started by lightning peak in the summer months and in the later afternoon and early evening. The Jan. 2, 2006, explosion in the Sago Mine in West Virginia that killed 12 miners was the deadliest U.S. fire started by lightning in recent years, according to the report; MSHA concluded in May 2007 that a lightning strike had ignited the explosion in an abandoned area of the mine.

The report's estimates are based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration's National Fire Incident Reporting System and the NFPA annual fire department experience survey. The report says lightning fires burn more acres than fires caused by humans, and most lightning fatalities are people struck by lightning, not deaths in fires.

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