Fire Damage Statistics

Quick Summary

Hundreds of house fires occur daily in the United States, claiming thousands of lives and injuring tens of thousands more each year. Though fire-related fatalities are decreasing thanks to improved building safety technologies, property damage costs from structure fires continue to soar.

Fire Damage Statistics Overview

In the U.S., home fire damage occurs every 93 seconds. A local fire department is called to an active fire every 23 seconds in response to car fires, structural fires or wildfires.

While the impact of fires and fire damage in the United States has improved since the 1970s, there are still too many home fires and fire deaths occurring every year. 

Any fire that takes place in or on a building is considered a structure fire, even if there is little to no damage. Fire prevention is essential in mitigating fires from spreading and preventing fire-related deaths. Additionally, fires in the U.S., specifically structure fires, cost billions of dollars every year in property damage.

Fire Rates in America

Though American attitudes toward fire safety have significantly improved in recent decades, fires still claim an alarming number of lives each year.

Here are some of the latest statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) regarding rates of fires in 2019:

  • 37% of all fires in the United States were structure fires
  • Fires incurred $12.3 billion in property damage
  • 80% of civilian fire deaths were caused by structure fires
  • One- and two-family homes made up 65% of fire-related deaths
  • Apartment fires accounted for 10% of fire-related casualties
  • Fire departments were called to a structure fire every 65 seconds

Compared to the previous year, the number of structure fires in 2019 dropped by 4%. Despite the reduced number of fires, the events themselves are becoming costlier. 

Here’s an overview of how 2019 fires compare to those from 2018:

  • Civilian casualties due to fire rose by 2%
  • Fire injuries increased by 9%
  • Property damage costs surged by 11%

Overall, fire-related property damage in 2019 cost 50% more than it did in 1980.

2019 Rates of Residential Property Fires

The most devastating types of fires occur in residential homes. In 2019, 75% of structure fires were attributed to residential buildings. The NFPA classifies residential fires into these two main categories:

  1. One- or two-family homes, including mobile and manufactured houses
  2. Apartment buildings and multi-family housing

The NFPA fire statistics claim that 2,870 civilians died from residential structure fires in 2019, and over 12,000 people were injured. 

Fortunately, residential fires decreased by 7% from 2018 to 2019, which is also 52% lower than the number of residential fires in 1980. 2019 also saw a 43% decrease in structure fire deaths in one- or two-family homes and a 63% decrease in fire deaths in apartments compared to 1980.

Rates of Other Property Fires

Though residential buildings make up the majority of structure fires, other properties are also routinely affected. 

The NFPA reported 22,000 non-home structure fires in 2019, 100 deaths and 500 injuries. The number of injuries increased by 25% from the previous year, but the number of total non-residential structure fires decreased by 8%. 

Other, non-residential properties are made up of structures such as: 

  • Hotels, motels and other hospitality structures
  • Commercial properties like stores, office buildings and storage facilities
  • Industrial buildings like warehouses and assembly plants
  • Institutions like schools and hospitals
  • Dormitories, rooming homes and residential boarding and care properties 
  • Detached residential garages and sheds

Non-residential properties are more strictly regulated than homes, which is reflected in the different rates of fires between the two property types. 

Top Fire Causes

Many fires and home fire deaths could have been prevented with better education and preparedness

The NFPA lists the following causes as the top reasons home fires occur:

  • Cooking
  • Burning candles
  • Faulty or malfunctioning electrical equipment

Home fires can be started in various ways, especially due to everyday appliances like washing machines, dryers or electric cookware. 

Washing machines and dryers collect dust, lint, clothing fibers and many other flammable materials. A small spark from the washing machine or dryer could cause a sizeable structure fire. 

Upholstered furniture is also extremely flammable. An upholstered couch or curtains sitting too close to a heat source, heating equipment or near a candle could be disastrous. 

Home Cooking Fires

By far the deadliest and costliest cause of house fires is due to cooking accidents. Cooking fires are reportedly responsible for over 172,000 home structure fires per year, according to U.S. fire departments and the NFPA

Here are some more statistics the NFPA provides on cooking-related fires:

  • Home cooking fires account for more than $1 billion in direct property damage each year
  • Approximately 61% of home cooking fires are started by cooktops and cooking ranges
  • Ovens and cooktops are responsible for 87% of cooking fire deaths and 78% of cooking fire injuries

The National Fire Protection Association reported that homes with gas ranges have a lower risk of cooking fires than homes with electric stoves. Additionally, unattended cooking was the leading reason why fires and subsequent deaths occur.

Home Candle Fires

Candles were responsible for 2% of all home fires between 2014 and 2018. During this same period, the NFPA reported:

  • An average of 21 home candle fires per day
  • 677 civilian fire injuries and 81 civilian fire deaths caused by candles
  • 60% of candle fires were started by combustible objects being too close to the fire

You can prevent candle house fires by keeping lit candles away from flammable objects. Most candle fires start by igniting household items, such as mattresses and bedding, curtains, furniture and more. 

Electrical Fires

Electrical fires were responsible for 13% of all home structure fires between 2012 and 2016. The NFPA declared that malfunctioning appliances and electronics are the leading cause of household electrical fires. 

Between 2012 and 2016, the NFPA found that electrical fires: 

  • Accounted for 18% of fire deaths in civilians
  • Caused 20% of fire-related property damage
  • Mostly took place between midnight and 4 am

Additionally, the NFPA claims that 40% of all 2012-2016 electrical fires occurred during one-third of the year—between the months of November and February.

Lightning Fires

Between 2007 and 2011, the NFPA reported an average of 22,600 fires caused by lightning strikes

While most of these fires were outdoors, they still took a devastating toll:

  • An average of nine civilians died each year
  • 53 people were injured yearly
  • Over $450 million in direct property damage annually

Lightning fires are most common between June and August, but peak lightning activity varies regionally.

Losses Due to Fire Damage

Residential fires in the United States have led to severe property damage for homeowners. Not only have building fires incurred property loss, but they also account for the majority of fire-related deaths and injuries. 

While many preventative measures have been put in place to inhibit property damage, the cost of repairing fire damage can be significant. Maintaining your home’s smoke alarms and other fire safety equipment is essential to preventing large-loss fires

Injuries and Loss of Life

Overall, fires are much less deadly today than they were a few decades ago. Since 1980, structure fire-related deaths have decreased by 47% and fire injuries decreased by 44%, according to the NFPA

Though the frequency of fires in 2019 fell from 2018 rates, fire-related deaths and fire-related injuries have sadly increased. 

Here’s how different types of fires compare in rates of injuries and deaths:

  • Residential fires cause 75% of fire deaths and 73% of fire-related injuries
  • Vehicle fires cause 17% of fire deaths

Though structure fires appear to be less deadly since the 80s, there was an unfortunate uptick in overall fire fatalities over the recent decade. The US Fire Administration (USFA) reported a 20% increase in fire-related deaths (not limited to structure fires) between 2009 and 2018. However, during the same time, the USFA reported a 17% decrease in fire injuries.

Property Fire Damage

Property damage caused by fires continues to increase year over year.

Here is a breakdown of property damage costs from the three most recent years of structure fires:

  • $10.6 billion in property damage in 2017
  • $11 billion in property damage in 2018
  • $14 billion in property damage in 2019

Wildfires resulted in $10 billion in direct property loss in 2017 compared to $8 billion of direct property loss from residential structure fires in 2019. On average, structure fires resulted in a $22,244 loss per structure in 2018. 

Economic Impact of Home Fire Damage

The economic impact of structural fires and fire damage in the United States in 2014 was $328.5 billion, making up 1.9% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This does not include wildland fires and vehicle fires

While the overall cost of fires has increased by over 50% since 1980, the total cost as a percentage of the GDP has decreased by over 75%. According to the NFPA, 17% of these funds are attributed to fire safety costs in constructing and upgrading buildings. 

Find Fire Damage Repair Professionals Near You

Experiencing a fire in your home, office or non-residential structure is extremely stressful, and repairing fire damage can feel like an overwhelming task. Fortunately, there are fire damage repair professionals to help you through this process. These experts can get your home or building back to a full-functioning space quickly and efficiently. 

The cost of refurbishing the building will depend on the extent of the fire damage and your insurance policy. Whether the majority of the damage is from a water sprinkler system or from the fire itself, there are experts who can help you with the fire damage repair process.

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