USFA Releases Residential Building Fires Topical Report

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) announces the release of a special report focusing on the causes and characteristics of fires in residential buildings. The report, Residential Building Fires, was developed by USFA's National Fire Data Center. Residential buildings include what are commonly referred to as homes, whether they are one- or two-family dwellings, or multifamily buildings. It also includes manufactured housing, hotels and motels, residential hotels, dormitories, assisted living facilities, and halfway houses.

According to the report:

  • An estimated 374,900 residential building fires are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated 2,630 deaths, 13,075 injuries, and $7.6 billion in property loss.
  • Cooking is the leading cause of residential building fires (44 percent). Nearly all residential building cooking fires are small, confined fires (94 percent).
  • Residential building fire incidence is higher in the cooler months, peaking in January at 11 percent.
  • Residential building fires occur most frequently in the early evening hours, peaking during the dinner hours from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., when cooking fires are high.
  • Forty-six percent of nonconfined residential building fires extend beyond the room of origin. The leading causes of these larger fires are electrical malfunctions (16 percent), unintentional or careless actions (15 percent), intentional (12 percent), and open flame (11 percent).
  • Smoke alarms were not present in 21 percent of the larger, nonconfined fires in occupied residential buildings.

Residential Building Fires is part of the Topical Fire Report Series and is based on 2007 through 2009 National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data. Topical reports explore facets of the U.S. fire problem as depicted through data collected in NFIRS. Each topical report briefly addresses the nature of the specific fire or fire-related topic, highlights important findings from the data, and may suggest other resources to consider for further information. Also included are recent examples of fire incidents that demonstrate some of the issues addressed in the report or that put the report topic in context.

Download the report HERE (PDF, 973 Kb).

For further information regarding other topical reports or any programs and training available at the United States Fire Administration, visit

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