Smoking Leading Cause of Fatal Residential Building Fires: Report

“By preparing for a home fire emergency, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a fire casualty,” said Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recently issued a special report examining the characteristics of civilian fire fatalities in residential buildings. The report, “Civilian Fire Fatalities in Residential Buildings,” was developed by USFA's National Fire Data Center and is based on 2007 to 2009 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).

According to the report:

  • Ninety-one percent of all civilian fatalities in residential building fires involve thermal burns and smoke inhalation.
  • Bedrooms (55 percent) are the leading location where civilian fire fatalities occur in residential buildings.
  • Fifty-one percent of civilian fire fatalities in residential buildings occur between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. This period also accounts for 49 percent of fatal fires.
  • Seventy percent of fire victims in residential buildings were escaping (36 percent) or sleeping (34 percent) at the time of their deaths.
  • Smoking was the leading cause of fatal residential building fires.
  • Males accounted for 57 percent of civilian fire fatalities in residential buildings; women accounted for 43 percent of the fatalities.
  • Approximately 43 percent of civilian fatalities in residential building fires are between the ages of 40 and 69.
  • Thirteen percent of civilian fire fatalities in residential buildings were less than 10 years old.

Fires that affect our homes are often the most tragic and the most preventable. This September, as our Nation marks the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 and the eighth annual observance of National Preparedness Month, FEMA encourages all Americans to prepare for emergencies—including home fire emergencies. “By preparing for a home fire emergency, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a fire casualty,” said Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines. “Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, test them once a month, change the batteries at least once a year, and make and practice a home fire escape plan.”

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