Some 3,000 Die in Residential Fires Yearly, Says USFA

March 31, 2005

More than 3,000 people die each year in fires at home, according to a new study released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s U.S. Fire Administration. Michael Brown, under secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response and FEMA’s director, called the special report, Fatal Fires, “alarming”.

“Residential structure fires, the very place people should feel the safest, unfortunately account for the vast majority of fatal fires,” said Brown. “What’s most worrisome is that in a full two-thirds of these fires, smoke alarms are missing or not working.”

Smoke alarms, when present need to be tested frequently and batteries need replacing every six months.

“As we move toward spring with Daylight Savings Time beginning this weekend, it’s time to change those batteries when you change your clocks. And it’s time to do some spring cleaning on your alarm to make sure it works when you need it most,” Brown said.

According to the new FEMA report, structure fires accounted for 74 percent of the 3,300 fatal fires in 2002. Of these fatal structure fires, 94 percent occurred in residences. Arson was the leading cause of fatal residential structure fires at 22 percent, followed closely by smoking at 21 percent. There were 3,380 fire-related deaths in 2002, down slightly from other years. The report summarizes some of the major characteristics of fatal fires and is based on data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).

“An unacceptable number of Americans are losing their lives and being injured by fires each year,” said U.S. Fire Administrator R. David Paulison. “We know that smoke alarms, escape plans, child fire prevention programs, and residential sprinklers save lives. We continue to encourage everyone to take the steps necessary to ensure their homes are fire safe today.”

Copies of the full reports can be downloaded from:

Additional information on fire safety is available at

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