USFA Releases Two Reports On Fires Ignited By Lighters And Matches

Throughout the world, lighters and matches are prominent symbols of fire and fire ignition, transcending barriers of language, age, and culture - and for good reason. Lighters and matches ignite candles, pilot lights, campfires, cigarettes, fireplace fires, and countless other presumably safe fires. Easy-to-buy, easy-to-transport, and easy-to-use, matches and lighters are convenient and effective, but can also be deadly and destructive. Although lighters and matches are similar in use and availability, match-ignited fires outnumber lighter-ignited fires by more than two to one. It is important to recognize that lighter- and match-ignited fires have different characteristics and an unequal degree of severity.

Together, lighters and matches caused 9% of all fires where the heat source was specified, and estimates indicate that there were 144,000 reported fires ignited by lighters or matches in 2002. Combined, match and lighter fires were the source of ignition in fires that killed an estimated 321 civilians, injured 1,877, and caused $470 million in property loss in 2002.

This report examines the causes and characteristics of lighter and match fires, based on 2002 NFIRS data, and compares such characteristics with those of all fires. It is available for download at

Match and lighter fires are analyzed together because of their similar uses, easy availability, and universal recognition as fire ignition sources. While they are grouped for the purposes of this report, the characteristics of lighter fires are different from those of match fires.

Only 19% of all fires ignited by lighters and matches occurred in residential structures in 2002. These fires, however, account for approximately 80% of all fatalities, 76% of all injuries, and 68% of all property loss resulting from lighter and match fires. Injurious and costly, residential structure fires require focused analysis when investigating the lighter- and match-ignited fire problem.

Based on NFIRS data, lighters and matches were responsible for 5% of the residential structure fire problem in the United States during 2002. Lighters and matches ignited an estimated 20,200 fires, which killed 276 people, injured 1,445 more, and destroyed $322 million in property. Lighters ignited nearly 57% of lighter- or match-ignited residential structure fires.

This report is available for download at

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