Fires in the United States: Common Causes, Impacts, and More

Posted in Uncategorized on November 14, 2018

Fires change the lives of thousands of Californians every year. From raging wildfires to house fires and isolated accidents, the effects of fire-related injuries can be long-lasting and difficult to recover from. Individuals can suffer from severe burns, causing disfigurement and infection. Victims may also suffer from psychological problems and severe phobias, impacting their ability to live life normally.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Fires?

According to the United States Fire Administration, 1,319,500 fires occurred in the country during 2017, an 8% decrease from 2016. Out of those fires, 14,670 people suffered injuries, 3,400 people died, and the fires destroyed $230 billion worth of property and possessions. The Northern California wildfires contributed $10 billion of that economic loss.

The agency categorizes fire data into residential, non-residential, vehicle, and outside fires. Each fire category is associated with a distinct set of causes and circumstances. Of the 364,300 residential fires that occurred in 2016:

  • 3% started because of cooking-related accidents
  • 6% started because of a heating source
  • 6% were unintentional or started because of carelessness
  • 5% started because of an electrical malfunction
  • 3% started because of an open flame

In contrast, 96,800 fires occurred in non-residential buildings in 2016. Of these fires:

  • 2% started because of cooking
  • 0% were unintentional or started because of carelessness
  • 3% were intentional
  • 4% were the result of an electrical malfunction
  • 4% started because of a heating source
  • 9% started because of an open flame

Out of the 204,000 vehicles fires that occurred in 2016:

  • 6% were unintentional
  • 1% were undetermined
  • 3% started because of an equipment failure

Out of the 558,500 outside fires that occurred in 2016:

  • 8% were unintentional
  • 5% were undetermined
  • 9% were intentional

Where Do Fires Occur?

Fires can happen anywhere and to anyone. In 2016, the most common places for fires to occur were:

  • Outside: accounting for 42.8% of all 2016 fires
  • Residential buildings: 29.1% of all 2016 fires
  • Vehicles: 14.3%
  • Nonresidential buildings: 8.3%
  • Other: 5.6%

Who Does Fire Impact the Most?

In the United States, 43.5 people per million population suffered fire-related injuries in 2016. 10.9 people per million population died from a fire in 2016. Out of the United States population:

  • Men suffer 60.3% of fire-related deaths and 59.4% of fire-related injuries
  • African American males and American Indian males have the highest fire death rates out of racial and gender demographics
  • People aged 85 years and older have the highest fire death rate
  • People between 30 and 34 years old have the highest fire injury rate

In 2016, the states with the most fire-related deaths were California, Georgia, and Texas. Alaska, Alabama, and West Virginia had the most fire-related deaths per million population.

Residential Versus Non-residential Fires

Fires can happen anywhere – in the office, in your home, or in a public building. Despite accounting for only 29.1% of all 2016 fires, residential buildings are the leading property type for fire-related injuries (76.5%), deaths (73.2%), and loss (54.7%). Residential fires and non-residential fires start for the same reasons, with cooking a leading cause for both. However, non-residential fires happen less often and are more likely to be intentional than residential fires.

If you are a victim of a fire, you risk losing your home, your pets, your personal belongings, and even your life. You can sustain serious, life-altering injuries that can take months or years to recover from. Sometimes, the effects of fires are irreversible.

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