Facts and statistics about the American house fire

When buying a home, it’s important to be aware of potential hazards in your area, such as earthquakes, floods, weather-related damage, and even theft. However, one of the biggest threats all homeowners face – no matter where you live – is home fires. Unfortunately, home fires are extremely common in the United States and happen unexpectedly. Home fires can quickly get out of control and cause extensive damage to property and life.

To protect yourself from the financial repercussions of home fires, it is extremely important to have a comprehensive homeowners insurance policy. Fire is a covered risk under most basic home insurance policies, so you don’t need a special type of policy or endorsement to get coverage. If a fire breaks out in your home, your homeowner’s insurance policy will pay for damages to the physical structure of your home and the replacement of your personal belongings, up to the limits of your policy. You will also usually pay for temporary living expenses while your home is being repaired.

Facts and statistics about house fires 2022

Home fires are more common than you might imagine. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 25% of reported fires between 2015-2019 occurred in residential homes. Fires can happen in any home, in any part of the country. Here are some great statistics about home fires in the United States:

  • In 2020, the US Fire Department responded to a fire somewhere in the country every 23 seconds, on average. (NFPA – Fire Loss in the United States)
  • One house fire occurred every 89 seconds in 2020. For comparison, one fire was reported in any building every 64 seconds. (NFPA – Fire Loss in the United States)
  • In 2020, a fatal house fire occurred every three hours and 24 minutes. A house fire occurred every 46 minutes. (NFPA – Fire Loss in the United States)
  • Although house fires are very common, house fires account for only about 25% of all reported fires across the country. (NFPA – Fire Loss in the United States)
  • The home fire mortality rate has not improved over the past few decades. For all home fires in 2020, the rate of 7.2 deaths per 1,000 reported home fires is roughly unchanged from the rate of 7.1 deaths per 1,000 reported home fires in 1980. (NFPA – Fire Loss in the United States)
  • It is estimated that 75% of civilian deaths due to fires and 72% of all fire-related injuries were due to house fires. (NFPA – Household Structures Fire Report)
  • In 2020, home fires across the United States caused an estimated $7.3 billion in direct property damage. (NFPA – Home Structures Fire Report)
  • Data for 2020 shows that nearly three out of five fatal home fire victims are 55 or older, and nearly two out of five fatal home fire victims are 65 or older. (NFPA – Home Structures Fire Report)
  • It is estimated that 34% of home fire injuries are caused by attempting to put out or control the fire. 28% of home fire injuries occur when trying to escape from the house. (NFPA – Home Structures Fire Report)
  • In 2020, most house fires happen between 5 PM – 8 PM, when many people are at home and cooking dinner. Data show that only 19% of house fires were reported between 11 pm – 7 am, but these fires caused nearly half of all house fire deaths that year. (NFPA – Home Structures Fire Report)
  • About 66% of all home fire deaths and 69% of home fire injuries occurred in living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens. (NFPA – Home Structures Fire Report)

The top five causes of house fires in the United States

There are many causes of home fires, but most home fires in the United States are caused by cooking. Data shows that most home fires start in the kitchens, where most home fire injuries also occur. This is especially true in apartments and multifamily homes. An estimated 69% of kitchen fires occurred in apartments and multiple families, while only 33% of kitchen fires started in single or two-family homes, based on a 2020 report.

Cooking fires are a major cause of home fire deaths. However, between 2015-2019, most home fire deaths were caused by smoking materials, such as cigarettes and lighters. During this four-year period, fires caused by smoking materials resulted in an average of 600 deaths and 1,030 injuries annually. The data also shows that fires caused by smoking materials usually have the least impact on direct property damage.

You might also be surprised to learn that arson is one of the leading causes of home fires in the United States. For all reported home fires between 2015-2019, about 7% were intentional. Data shows that arson home fires have the lowest fatality rate of the top five causes, but from 2015-2019, there were an average of 380 deaths per year and 800 injuries per year from arson.

The table below highlights the most common causes of home fires and the average property loss for each cause, according to data from the NFPA’s Home Structure Fire Report:

cooking 169400 $1.2 billion
heating equipment 45800 1 billion dollars
Distribution Equipment / Electrical Lighting 32000 $1.3 billion
Deliberate fire mode 28400 554 million dollars
smoking materials 16300 $511 million

Does homeowners insurance cover fires?

Home insurance is not a legal requirement, but if you have a mortgage, you will likely be required to get it. If you are wondering, “Does homeowners insurance cover fire” the answer is yes. Under most standard homeowner insurance policies, fire is a covered risk, whether you have a defined peril policy or an open peril policy.

Specifically, homeowners’ insurance covers damage from the fire itself, as well as smoke damage. So, for example, if a fire breaks out in your attic and destroys the roof, your home insurance policy will pay for the repairs. It will also be useful to replace items that were stored in the attic if they are damaged by flames or smoke. However, your policy will have coverage limits, so make sure your limits are high enough to cover your structure and property.

Most causes of home fires are covered by homeowners insurance. This includes electrical fires, kitchen fires and stove accidents, as well as fire damage caused by candles or heaters. In most cases, wildfires are covered as well, but it can depend on your condition. Even if the house fire was caused by negligence, such as leaving the oven overnight, your home insurance policy will likely cover the damage.

It probably goes without saying, but your homeowners insurance policy won’t cover arson damage. If you try to burn down your home for insurance compensation, your insurance company will not cover the damage, and you may be charged with insurance fraud. In addition, most home insurance policies exclude arson coverage. If someone intentionally sets your home on fire, your home insurance policy may not cover the damage, even if you’re not at fault.

Fire safety tips at home

Home fires can be triggered by a variety of things, but many home fires can be prevented. Taking the right safety precautions can reduce the risk of a fire in your home so you can keep your family safe. Here are some tips to avoid house fires:

  • Install smoke alarms: Smoke alarms can save your life in the event of a home fire. If your home does not have smoke alarms, you can easily install them yourself using a ladder. Place smoke alarms in the kitchen, living areas, and bedrooms, and connect them so that they sound when one alarm goes off. Don’t forget to test smoke alarms regularly.
  • Make a plan to escape from the fire: When a fire breaks out in your home, you may only have a few minutes to escape, so it is important to have an escape plan. Draw a sketch of your home and mark at least two exit points. If you have children, make sure they know the escape plan and feel comfortable getting out quickly. As part of your plan, you should also set aside a meeting space away from home so you can make sure everyone is considered.
  • Pay attention when cooking: Since most home fires start in the kitchen, it’s important to stay informed when cooking. Do not move away from the stove while it is on, avoid wearing loose clothing that can catch fire and keep flammable items, such as dish towels and food wrappers, away from burners. If you are cooking in oil, be sure to clean up any grease residue once it has cooled.
  • Do not smoke indoors: If you or someone in your home smokes, it is safer to smoke outside. Lighters and cigarettes can produce embers that can set fire to other things, including clothing. You should also make sure to use an ashtray if you or someone else smokes. Even if you’re outside, you should never throw cigarettes away. They can cause small fires in your lawn or brush, which can eventually spread to your home.
  • Light candles safely: When lighting candles, pay attention to your surroundings. You should avoid lighting candles near furniture, plants, or anything else that could be flammable. Ideally, you should light the candles where you can see them, so as not to accidentally leave a lit candle when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach: If you have children in your home, be sure to keep matches and lighters in a drawer or somewhere out of reach. Playing with matches and lighters can lead to home fires and could endanger a child.
  • Use heaters safely: In general, fireplaces are not the safest way to heat your home. But if you need to use heaters, avoid running them near flammable materials, such as bedding, curtains, or furniture. If possible, you should also avoid turning on the heater at night.
  • Evacuate if you smell natural gas: Natural gas leaks can cause explosions that can catch fire in your home. If your home uses natural gas and it smells (it smells like rotten eggs), you and your family members should evacuate immediately and call the fire department as soon as you get out. You can avoid natural gas leaks by checking your furnace and gas pipes annually.
  • Check your outlets: House fires can be caused by faulty electrical outlets. You can check your outlets by feeling the panels for heat, looking for smoke, and checking for worn wires by removing the cover. If any of the outlets in your home are loose or no longer holding a plug tightly, it is best to replace it.
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