While wildfires may capture national headlines, the real threat is everyday housefires. A house fire is reported every 93 seconds in the US, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Additionally, one person is injured in a house fire every 43 minutes, with one person dying every 3 hours and 10 minutes.
How common are fires in the home?
Of the estimated 1,291,500 fires in 2019, 339,500 were residential house fires. This means that house fires account for 26% of all fires in the US. If we look at house fires as a percentage of structural fires, that number jumps to almost 94%.
However, while 339,500 house fires may seem like a lot, it’s actually about 6% less than the previous year. In fact, the number of house fires has gone down considerably since 1980, with 2019 recording the least number of house fires in at least 39 years.
Number of house fires over time
How much do house fires cost?
In 2019, fires caused an estimated $7.8 billion in property loss, which was down about 3% from the $8 billion in 2018. While the total cost was down in 2019, the average property loss per fire cost went up around 4%, jumping from $22,099 in 2018 to $22,878 in 2019.
Regarding the costliest type of house fire, those with the highest average property lost cost are fires where the cause is currently under investigation — meaning that there’s a suspicion that the fire was deliberately set — at $94,813. The next most costliest house fires are those that are caused by natural events like the sun’s heat or lightning with a price tag of $89,930.
Most common causes of house fires in the US
It will probably come as little surprise that the number one cause of fires in the home is cooking, accounting for 169,500 of all house fires in 2018. This means that almost half (49%) of residential fires can be traced back to the kitchen.
Trailing behind cooking fires are fires caused by heating at 34,400 and unintentional fires, or fires caused by carelessness, with 26,900 fires.
Most common causes of house fires in 2018
|Cause of fire||Number of fires||Average property loss|
|Other unintentional, careless||26,900||$55,881|
|Cause under investigation||4,800||$94,813|
|Playing with heat source||1,300||$36,308|
Which state has the most deaths from house fires?
Alaskans are most at risk of losing their lives in a house fire, with a rate of 27 people per million perishing in a fire at home. At the other end of the spectrum is New Jersey, where you’re six times less likely to die in a house fire compared to Alaska, with a rate of 4.6 people per million.
Fire death rate by state
|State||Fire Death Rate Per Million Population (2017)|
|District of Columbia||18.7|
5 tips for preventing house fires
Taking extra precautions to prevent a fire can keep your home, family and belongings safe.
- Keep kitchen safety habits. Avoid stepping away from the kitchen while you’re cooking or leaving your children alone in the kitchen, and check to be sure all appliances are off once you leave your cooking space.
- Have fire gear. Keeping a fire extinguisher and fire blankets in multiple places throughout your house can help tame a small fire before it gets out of control.
- Install smoke alarms. Install smoke alarms throughout your home, and check that they are working and have battery life periodically.
- Practice fireplace and candle safety. If you have a fireplace, use a firescreen to prevent embers from ending up on the carpet. Put out your fire and candles before bed.
- Clean your equipment. Assure your appliances and equipment are clean and in working order. For example, maintain greased pans, remove lint from your dryer’s filter and clean out electrical sockets of dust.
Does homeowners insurance cover house fires?
Most homeowners policies cover house fires and should cover your home and your belongings if your house catches fire. This extends to events ranging from a kitchen fire to lightning strikes and even wildfires.
However, if you live in an area prone to wildfires, check that your policy fully covers wildfires, or look for alternatives.
Data for the number of house fires over time and data for 2019 was sourced from Fire Loss in the United States yearly reports by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Data for the cause of house fires and state death rates was sourced from U.S. fire statistics by U.S. Fire Administration.
“Home fires” and “house fires” were used interchangeably and refer to residential structure fires that occurred in one- and two-family homes and multifamily homes as defined by the NFPA. This includes dwellings, duplexes, mobile homes, apartments, row houses and townhouses. Other residential properties, such as hotels and motels, dormitories, barracks, rooming and boarding homes are not included.
Property loss amounts do not include indirect losses such as an interruption in business.
Inflation adjustments to 2019 dollars were done using the consumer price index.
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