According to a new study from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home structure fires account for 92 percent of fire deaths. These fires cause an average of 2,840 civilian deaths each year.
During the period of 2003-2007, U.S. fire departments responded to approximately 380,000 home fires a year. These fires not only caused a large number of civilian deaths, they also caused an average of 13,160 reported fire injuries and $6.4 billion in direct property damage.
Smoking materials caused the largest number of fire deaths, and heating equipment was the second leading cause of home fires.
The leading cause of home structure fires, civilian fire injuries, and unreported fires continues to be cooking equipment. Forty-one percent of home fires started in the kitchen area and caused 15 percent of deaths and 36 percent of injuries.
Other key findings include:
— Reported home fires peaked around dinner hours of 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.;
— Only 20 percent of reported home fires occurred between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., however 52 percent of home fire deaths resulted from fires reported during these hours;
— Thirty percent of reported home structure fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occurred in December, January, and February;
— Reported apartment fires were more likely to start in the kitchen than fires in one- and two-family homes; and
— The two leading items first ignited in home fire deaths are upholstered furniture (21 percent), followed by mattress and bedding at 13 percent.
Properly installed and maintained fire protection can prevent most fire deaths. Forty percent of fatal home fire injuries occurred in properties where no smoke alarms were present.
Home fire sprinklers can also help, as the death rate per 1,000 reported home fires was 83 percent lower when wet pipe sprinkler systems were present, compared to reported home fires without automatic extinguishing equipment.
The NFPA offers these safety tips to prevent home structure fires from occurring:
• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
• Keep anything that can burn, such as paper, bedding, or furniture, at least three feet away from heating equipment and have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around stoves, open fires and space heaters.
• Remember to turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
• If you smoke, smoke outside using a deep, sturdy ashtray. Remember to make sure butts and ashes are out, and dousing water or sand on them is the best way to do that.
• Keep matches and lighters up high, out of children’s sight and reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
• Install smoke alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Larger homes may require additional smoke alarms to provide a minimum level of protection.
• Test smoke alarms at least once a month by pushing the test button.
n Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.
• Smoke alarm accessories are available for people who are hard of hearing.
• Smoke alarms and accessories are available for people who are deaf.
• If you are building or remodeling your home, consider installing home fire sprinklers.
For more safety tips, you can visit http://www.nfpa.org/safetytips.