An estimated 16,800 intentionally set fires in residential buildings occur annually in the U.S., according to the latest report issued by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). These fires result in an estimated average of 280 deaths, 775 injuries and $593 million in property loss each year.
The report, Intentionally Set Fires in Residential Buildings (2008-2010), examines the characteristics of intentionally set fires in residential buildings. The report is part of the Topical Fire Report Series and is based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).
According to the report:
- Intentionally set fires accounted for 5 percent of all residential building fires.
- Lighters (22 percent), heat from other open flame or smoking materials (19 percent) and matches (15 percent) were the leading heat sources of intentionally set fires in residential buildings.
- The majority (76 percent) of intentionally set fires in residential buildings occurred in one- or two-family dwellings. An additional 19 percent of fires occurred in multifamily dwellings.
- 41 percent of the intentionally set residential fires occurred in vacant buildings.
- Rubbish, trash, and waste (8 percent); magazines, newspapers and writing paper (7 percent); and uncontained flammable liquids or gas (6 percent) were the items most often first ignited in intentionally set fires in residential buildings.
Loss Measures for Intentionally Set Fires in Residential Buildings (3-year average, 2008–2010)
Residential Building Fires
|Residential Building Fires
(Excluding Intentional Fires)
Source: NFIRS 5.0
- Average loss for fatalities and injuries is computed per 1,000 fires; average dollar loss is computed per fire and is rounded to the nearest $10.
- When calculating the average dollar loss per fire for 2008–2010, the 2008 and 2009 dollar-loss values were adjusted to their equivalent 2010 dollar-loss values to account for inflation.
- The category “Residential Building Fires (Excluding Intentional Fires)” does not include fires of unknown cause.
The report found that the average loss of fatalities, injuries and dollar loss for intentional set residential fires was higher than those for all other residential fires. It also found that the fires typically occur in the evening hours and most often start in bedrooms.
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