Facts + Statistics: Fire

 
Fire losses

Great strides have been made in constructing fire-resistant buildings and improving fire-suppression techniques, both of which have reduced the incidence of fire. However, in terms of property losses, these advances have been somewhat offset by increases in the number and value of buildings.

In 2020, a fire department responded to a fire on average every 23 seconds in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association. A home fire was reported every 89 seconds, a home fire death occurred every three hours and 24 minutes, and a home fire injury occurred every 46 minutes.

Fire losses as shown in the chart below for homeowners, commercial multiple peril and fire insurance fell 32.7 percent in 2019, compared with 2018 and rose 2.6 percent in 2020. In 2017 and 2018 fire losses rose 53.5 percent and 28.7 percent, respectively, reflecting high losses from wildfires.

 
Fire Losses, 2011-2020 (1)

 

Year Property loss ($ millions) Loss per capita (2)
2011 $19,511 $62.62
2012 23,977 76.39
2013 19,054 60.29
2014 21,801 68.47
2015 19,759 61.60
2016 23,789 73.63
2017 36,510 112.30
2018 46,972 143.72
2019 31,614 96.29
2020 32,430 98.43

(1) Including allowances for FAIR Plan and uninsured losses.
(2) Calculated by the Insurance Information Institute using ISO property loss and population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division.

Source: ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business; U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division.

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Fire Losses In The United States, By Line Of Insurance, 2020 (1)

 

(1) Estimated. Includes FAIR plan and uninsured losses.

Source: ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business.

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Structure fires

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that there were 490,500 structure fires in the United States in 2020, up 1.9 percent from 2019. Structure fires caused $12.1 billion in property damage in 2020, down 1.6 percent from $12.3 billion in 2019. The average loss for these structure fires was $24,669, down 3.4 percent from 2019. Vehicle, outside fires and fires in the California wildland-urban interface caused another $9.8 billion in property damage, bringing total property losses from fires to $21.9 billion.

Public assembly fires include fires in eating and drinking places and other entertainment venues, houses of worship and other places where people congregate. There are approximately 7,410 structure fires in eating and drinking establishments each year, according to a NFPA report based on data between 2010 and 2014.

According to the NFPA, fires in nightclubs are among the most deadly public occupancy fires, because they contain a large number of people in one main space. The deadliest nightclub fire in world history was the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston, Massachusetts which claimed 492 lives followed by a fire at a disco/dance hall in Luoyang, China in December, 2000 that claimed 309 lives. A January, 2013 fire at the KISS night club in Brazil ranked third, claiming 242 lives. The 2003 Station Fire in Rhode Island claimed 100 lives, and ranks as number ten.

 
Structure Fires, 2011-2020 (1)

 

    Direct property damage (2) ($ billions)   Direct property damage (2) ($ billions)
Year Number of fires As reported In 2021 dollars (3) Year Number of fires As reported In 2021 dollars (3)
2011 484,500 $9.7 $11.7 2016 475,500 $7.8 $8.9
2012 480,500 9.8 11.7 2017 499,000 10.7 11.9
2013 487,500 9.5 11.1 2018 499,000 11.1 12.0
2014 494,000 9.8 11.2 2019 481,500 12.3 13.1
2015 501,500 10.3 11.8 2020 490,500 12.1 12.8

(1) Estimates based on data reported by fire departments responding to the 2020 National Fire Experience Survey. May exclude reports from some fire departments.
(2) Does not include damage from major wildfires.
(3) Calculated from unrounded numbers by the Insurance Information Institute using the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics' Inflation Calculator.

Source: Reproduced with permission from Fire Loss in the United States During 2020 by Marty Ahrens and Ben Evarts, ©2021 National Fire Protection Association
www.nfpa.org.

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Reported Fires By Property Use, 2020 (1)

 

Property use Fires Property loss (2)
($ millions)
Fires in California Wildland-Urban Interface   $4,200
Structures 490,500 12,107
   Residential  379,500 8,703
      Home  356,500 8,400
         One- and two-family homes (3) 270,500 6,771
         Apartments and other multi-family 86,000 1,629
         Other residential structures (4) 23,000 303
   Non-residential (5) 111,000 3,404
Vehicle fire  209,500 5,170
   Highway vehicle fire  173,000 1,615
   Other vehicle fire  36,500 3,555 (6)
Outside and other fire   688,500 389
   Fire outside but no vehicle (7) 84,000 210
   Fires in brush, grass, or wildlands (8) 277,000 NA 
   Outside rubbish fire  225,000 NA 
All other fire  102,500 179
Total  1,388,500 $21,866

(1) Estimates based on data reported by fire departments responding to the 2020 National Fire Experience Survey. May exclude reports from some fire departments.
(2) Includes overall direct property loss to contents, structures, vehicles, machinery, vegetation or any other property involved in a fire. Excludes indirect losses, such as business interruption or temporary shelter costs.
(3) Includes manufactured homes.
(4) Includes hotels and motels, dormitories, rooming houses, residential board and care properties, and other residential properties.
(5) Public assembly, educational, institutional, retail, office, manufacturing, and industrial or utility properties.
(6) Includes a $3 billion naval ship fire in California.
(7) Outside storage, crops, timber, etc.
(8) Excludes crops and timber, with no value or loss involved.

Source: Reproduced with permission from Fire Loss in the United States During 2020 by Marty Ahrens and Ben Evarts, ©2021 National Fire Protection Association www.nfpa.org.

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Top 10 Costliest Large-Loss Fires, 2020 (1)

($ millions)

Rank State Month Type of facility Estimated loss
1 August California "Siege"  wildfires (2) $4,200.0
2 July California Navy ship under repair 3,000.0
3 June California Online sales warehouse 300.0
4 August Minnesota Hotel under construction 80.0
5 February Georgia Apartments under construction  61.0
6 January New Jersey Apartments under construction 51.9
7 May North Carolina Manufacturing, special equipment 50.0
8 May Ohio Apartments under construction 26.1
9 July Massachusetts Cold storage warehouse 25.0
10 February Alaska Village school building 20.0

(1) Large-loss fires of $20 million or more in 2020.
(2) Includes multiple wildfires.

Note: Loss data shown here may differ from figures shown elsewhere for the same event due to differences in the date of publication, the geographical area covered and other criteria used by organizations collecting the data.

Source: National Fire Protection Association www.nfpa.org.

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Top 10 Costliest Large-Loss Fires In U.S. History

($ millions)

      Estimated loss (1)
Rank Date Location/event Dollars when occurred In 2020 dollars (2)
1 Sep. 11, 2001 World Trade Center (terrorist attacks) $33,400 $48,900 (3)
2 Oct. 8, 2017 Northern CA Wildland Urban Interface fire 10,000 10,600
3 Apr. 18, 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire 350 10,100
4 Nov. 8, 2018 Camp Wildland Urban Interface fire 8,500 8,700
5 Aug, 2021 "Siege" wildfire, Northern California (4) 4,200 4,200
6 Oct. 8-9, 1871 Great Chicago Fire 168 3,600
7 July, 2021 Navy ship under repair, San Diego, California 3,000 3,000
8 Nov. 8, 2018 Woolsey Wildland Urban Interface fire 2,900 3,000
9 Oct. 20, 1991 Oakland, CA, firestorm, Wildland Urban Interface fire 1,500 2,900
10 Oct. 20, 2007 San Diego County, CA, The Southern California Firestorm 1,800 2,200

(1) Loss estimates are from National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) records. The list is limited to fires for which some reliable dollar loss estimates exists.
(2) Adjustment to 2020 dollars made by the National Fire Protection Association using the Consumer Price Index.
(3) Differs from inflation-adjusted estimates made by other organizations due to the use of different collection criteria and deflators.
(4) Includes multiple fires.

Source: ©National Fire Protection Association. www.nfpa.org/research/reports-and-statistics.

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Top Catastrophic Multiple-Death Fires and Explosions, 2020 (1)

 

Rank (2) Month State Type of facility Deaths
1 August California Wildfire 16
2 January Alabama Houseboat and boats 8
3 February Mississippi Single-family home 7
4 March Indiana Single-family home 6
4 August California Wildfire 6
4 December West Virginia Single-family home 6
5 June Georgia Aircraft in flight 5
5 August Colorado Single-family home 5
5 August California Wildfire 5
5 October New Jersey Furniture store 5

(1) Fires or explosions that kill five or more people in residential property, or three or more people in nonhome or nonstructural property.
(2) Fires with the same number of deaths receive the same rank.

Source: National Fire Protection Association. www.nfpa.org.

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Top 10 Most Catastrophic Multiple-Death Fires In U.S. History (1)

 

Rank Date Location/event Deaths
1 Sep. 11, 2001 New York, NY, World Trade Center terrorist attack 2,666 (2)
2 Apr. 27, 1865 Mississippi River, SS Sultana steamship 1,547
3 Oct. 8, 1871 Peshtigo, WI, forest fire 1,152
4 Jun. 15, 1904 New York, NY, General Slocum steamship 1,030
5 Dec. 30, 1903 Chicago, IL, Iroquois Theater 602
6 Oct. 12, 1918 Cloquet, MN, forest fire 559
7 Nov. 28, 1942 Boston, MA, Cocoanut Grove night club 492
8 Apr. 16, 1947 Texas City, TX, SS Grandcamp and Monsanto Chemical Co. plant 468
9 Sep. 1, 1894 Hinckley, MN, forest fire 418
10 Dec. 6, 1907 Monongha, WV, coal mine explosion 361

(1) Fires that kill five or more people in home property, or three or more people in nonhome or nonstructural property.
(2) Revised to 2,976 by government officials. 

Source: Reproduced with permission, © 2020, National Fire Protection Association www.nfpa.org.

 
Large loss fires

March 25, 2011, marked the 100-year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The blaze that swept through a New York City sweatshop killing 146 garment workers ushered in a new era of fire safety in the American workplace, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The September 11, 2001, World Trade Center conflagration was the deadliest, as well as the most costly, building fire in U.S. history.

 
TOP 20 DEADLIEST LARGE-LOSS FIRES IN THE UNITED STATES (1)

Rank Date Event Location Fatalities
1 Sep. 11, 2001 The World Trade Center New York, NY 2,666
2 Dec. 30, 1903 Iroquois Theatre Chicago, IL 602
3 Nov. 28, 1942 Cocoanut Grove night club Boston, MA 492
4 Apr. 21, 1930 Ohio State Penitentiary Columbus, OH 320
5 Mar. 18, 1937 Consolidated School gas explosion New London, TX 294
6 Dec. 5, 1876 Conway's Theatre Brooklyn, NY 285
7 Apr. 23, 1940 Rhythm Club Natchez, MS 207
8 Mar. 4, 1908 Lakeview Grammar School Collinwood, OH 175
9 Jan. 12, 1908 Rhodes Opera House Boyertown, PA 170
10 Jul. 6, 1944 Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus Hartford, CT 168
10 Apr. 19, 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Oklahoma City, OK 168
12 May 28, 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club Southgate, KY 165
13 Mar. 25, 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company New York, NY 146
14 Apr. 10, 1917 Eddystone Ammunition Company plant explosion Eddystone, PA 133
15 May 15, 1929 Cleveland Clinic Hospital Cleveland, OH 125
16 Dec. 7, 1946 Winecoff Hotel Atlanta, GA 119
17 Feb. 20, 2003 The Station Nightclub W. Warwick, RI 100
18 Dec. 1, 1958 Our Lady of the Angels School Chicago, IL 95
19 Mar. 25, 1990 Happy Land Social Club New York, NY 87
20 Nov. 21, 1980 MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas, NV 85

(1) Based on deadliest single-builiding or complex fires and explosions.

Source: National Fire Protection Association.

 
Holiday fire losses

Fireworks

  • Fireworks caused an estimated 19,500 fires in 2018, including 1,900 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires, and 17,100 outside and other fires. Five deaths resulted from fireworks-started fires, along with 46 civilian injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
  • In 2018 hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,100 people for fireworks related injuries. Half of those injuries were to the extremities and 34 percent were to the eye or other parts of the head. Forty-four percent of the emergency department-treated injuries were burns. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for more than one-third (36 percent) of the injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2018 Fireworks Annual Report.  

Home fires

  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says Thanksgiving Day is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. In 2019, U.S. fire departments responded to about 1,400 cooking fires on Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

 


Holiday fire losses
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  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 200 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees from 2011 to 2015, according to a fact sheet from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
  • On average, one out of every 32 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 143 reported home fires.
  • Home Christmas tree fires caused an average of six civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries and $14.8 million in direct property damage annually from 2011 to 2015.
  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in two out of five (40 percent) of the home Christmas tree structure fires. About one-quarter (26 percent) occurred because some type of heat source was too close to the tree. Decorative lights were involved in 18 percent of these incidents. Eight percent of home Christmas tree fires were started by candles.
  • The top three days for home candle fires were Christmas, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve, according to another NFPA fact sheet.
  • During 2011-2015, the NFPA estimates that 12 percent of December candle fires began with decorations. These fires caused an estimated average of one civilian death, 41 civilian injuries and $13.4 million in direct property damage per year, according to an NFPA fact sheet.
  • Candle fires peaked in December (11%). January and November ranked second, each with 10% of home candle fires.
  • During the five-year-period of 2011-2015, 8,690 home structure fires were caused by candles each year. They caused an annual average of 82 civilian fire deaths, 800 civilian fire injuries and $295 million in direct property damage.

For information about Holiday Safety and Preparedness, see our Pinterest board.

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