Fire Statistics By State: What You Should Know
Fire is a real threat to the safety and integrity of your home. A residential fire can start at any time from a variety of sources. Common causations include a spark from faulty wiring, a neglected area full of dry flammable materials, or a toaster oven left on broil.
All it takes is one second of negligence to change everything. Here is some more information on the common causes of residential fires in the United States and what the statistics are by state and region. The fire statistics in each state are influenced by a variety of socioeconomic factors impacting the residents there.
Snapshot of Fires in the U.S.
Official associations like the NFPA, National Fire Prevention Association collect and correlate fire data to give you a snapshot from each county, state, and region.
The NFPA also merges this information into digestible facts concerning how many fires occur, where they are happening most, and how to keep them at bay. Out of the 74,000 disasters that the American Red Cross responded to last year, 93% involved house fires.
Top Causes of House Fires
Cooking fires are the number one cause of house fires in the U.S., according to the NFPA. But the kitchen isn’t the only hot spot in your house. Other threats to your home security are heating sources, faulty wiring, neglected areas, and dryer fires.
It’s not just the open flames of your range; you need to keep an eye on other appliances – toasters, toaster ovens, waffle irons, panini presses – and combustibles such as oil sprays or paper towels.
Never leave the kitchen unattended during active cooking time, especially during high heat operations.
The rustic wood-burning stove that keeps you cozy in the colder months is also a fire hazard. Ensure you keep your firebox clean and free of sawdust, fuel, and ashes.
You should check your flue and have your chimney professionally cleaned once a year, preferably before winter.
When a fire starts up in your wall, it can be a combination of two things. You either have an old, faulty, or otherwise flawed wiring system or are using too many gadgets per socket.
Attics and crawl spaces
You might not consider these spaces top dangerous locales in your home, but you’d be wrong. Out of all house fires that occur, 13% start in an attic or crawlspace under the right conditions (hot, dry, dusty), and 88% of those are due to electrical malfunction or wiring.
Although only 4% of all house fires start in your laundry room, almost all of them start because of a clogged lint tray or vent.
Structural fires, oddly enough, follow a particular pattern according to region or state. When looking at fire statistics by state, it’s apparent that the geographic location of your home and other socioeconomic factors influence your risk of a residential fire.
Fire Statistics by Region
You can roughly break the United States into six distinct regions, the Pacific, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Midwest, Southeast, and the Northeast. Hawaii and Alaska are usually assessed separately. Going through each region will give you insight into accurate national fire statistics.
This area of the country is made up of Oregon, California, and Washington. The number of fire deaths per million on average in the U.S. is 9.9, and you can measure the state's average up against the country’s.
California’s rates are well below the national average from 2010 to 2019, with only 2.9 deaths per residential structure fire and 13.7 injuries. Washington also comes in below 9.9 deaths per million due to fire. The NFIRS, or National Fire Incident Reporting Systems, reports 7.1 deaths and 21.4 injuries due to fires in residential structures in Washington for 2018.
Oregon, however, is well above the national average for this decade, with a whopping 9.7 deaths per 1,000 residential fires and 53.9 injuries.
Rocky Mountain region
The Rocky Mountains area includes Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. In comparison to the national averages from NFIRS, here’s how these mountainous states measure up in the years between 2013 and 2017.
With a death rate per year at 18.8, Nevada is close to the top of the list, closely followed by Idaho, Utah, and Montana. Wyoming has a surprisingly low fire death rate at 6.6 for that period. But Colorado has 29.8 deaths by fire in those five years.
Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma are hot and dry most of the year, so homes in these states are very susceptible to fire damage or destruction. Texas’s average yearly fire death rate is 199.9, but that statistic should be tempered by the enormity of the state’s landmass.
In every state in the Southwest except for Oklahoma, yearly death rates and injuries have been slowly declining through the last decade. Oklahoma remains static.
The Southeast of the country comprises Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware. The highlights of the fire statistics by state for this group of hot and humid states show that 9 out of the 10 states with the highest fire deaths in America are in the Southeast.
This data seemingly coincides with the fact that some of these states – Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina – have residents living rurally, a significant factor in residential flame-up vulnerability.
Studies suggest that rural households experience higher rates of injury and mortality from house fires than those who live in urban centers. Factors contributing to these higher rates include living in homes with old electrical equipment.
From Ohio to North Dakota to Kansas, the Midwest spans different microclimates. On one end of the spectrum, out of 4,317 fire fatalities from 2013 to 2017, Kansas and North Dakota have low averages, with North Dakota seeing 37 for that period (possibly due to its smaller population).
South Dakota also has a low number of average fire deaths, coming in at 12, but there were only a little over 800,000 people living in the state in 2013. Michigan and Ohio have higher averages, at 114 and 137, respectively.
Most of the states in this region – Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine – have very low fire death averages except for New York, which is more densely populated.
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Making Sense of the Data
Fire statistics by state suggest that your risk of experiencing a house fire depends on the geographic location of your home and the state of the wiring in the building. Living rurally may increase the risk of a house fire and lengthen the fire department’s response time, resulting in more severe damage.
Assess the risk level in your region and take appropriate precautions. Investing in a fire extinguisher and avoiding overloading your electrical outlets can better protect you and your family.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eliza Moyer is a disaster relief lifer, and has contributed her services (both as a volunteer and a specialist) for most of her adult life. Eliza has helped communities recover from a multitude of natural and man made disasters in over 27 countries around the world.
ELIZA MOYER // Emergency Expert
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