Photo credit: NFPA. Click to enlarge image.

In 2015, fire departments across the country responded to 1,345,500 fires—that’s roughly one fire every 23 seconds, and a 3.7% increase from 2014. Every year the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) collects data and publishes a detailed report laying out the previous year’s fire statistics. The annual report serves as an overview of the nation’s current state of fire protection for fire protection engineers and other professionals and stakeholders in the industry.

Those nearly 1.35 million fires fall into one of three categories: outside and “other” fires, structure fires, and highway vehicle fires. According to the NFPA’s report, outside and “other” fires made up nearly half with 639,500, and the year saw 501,500 structure fires. There were also 174,000 highway vehicle fires.

The 58-page report is available online in PDF form, but here are a few highlights:

  • More than 75% of all fire-related deaths occur in home fires.
  • One home structure fire was reported every 86 seconds.
  • Since the year 2000, the number of fires reported by local municipal fire departments has decreased by about 21%. Even so, the number of annual structure fires has remained about the same.
  • The frequency of fires per 1,000 people is considerably lower in communities with populations smaller than 5,000 people. The rate of civilian fire-related deaths also tends to be higher in smaller communities.
  • One fire-related civilian injury occurred every 34 minutes, with 15,700 civilian injuries total.
  • One fire-related civilian death occurred every 40 minutes, with 3,280 civilian deaths total.
  • Fires caused $14.3 billion in property damage (with another $2 billion resulting from two major wildfires in California).

The good news from 2015 is that there were fewer catastrophic multiple-death fires than any other year since the NFPA began reporting. A catastrophic fire is defined as one that causes five or more deaths in a home or three or more deaths in a non-home structure or non-structure fire. Last year there were nine reported multiple-death fires reported, resulting in 42 deaths—that’s a significant decrease from 2014, which saw 25 catastrophic multiple-death fires that resulted in 131 lives lost. Ten years ago there were 36 such fires resulting in 223 deaths.

These numbers make it clear that while fire protection has improved tremendously over the years, there’s still work to be done. Here are a few ways you can do your part:

  • Make sure everyone in your home and workplace is familiar with fire exits and escape routes.
  • Test your smoke detectors each month and change the batteries at least once a year, but we recommend you consider changing them every six months. A good habit is to replace your smoke detector batteries when you set your clocks for the start of Daylight Savings Time and then again when Daylight Savings Time ends.
  • Smoke detectors have an expiration date – if your smoke detector is 10 years old or older (let’s hope it’s not older) it MUST be replaced!
  • NEVER remove your smoke detector battery. Disabling a smoke detector or removing the battery can be a fatal mistake.

And, last but not least, check back in to our blog over the next few weeks, as we will be discussing important tips to keep yourself and your loved ones safe during the holiday season!