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USFA Releases Large Loss Building Fires Report

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) United States Fire Administration (USFA) issued a special report examining the characteristics and causes of Large Loss Building Fires (PDF, 834 Kb). The report, developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center, is based on 2007 to 2009 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).

From 2007 to 2009, an estimated 900 large loss building fires were reported by U.S. fire departments annually. These fires caused an estimated 35 deaths, 100 injuries, and $2.8 billion dollars in property damage. In this report, large loss building fires are defined as fires that resulted in a total dollar loss of $1 million or more.

According to the report:

  • Forty-eight percent of large loss fires occur in residential buildings.
  • Exposures are the leading cause of large loss building fires at 22 percent, followed by electrical malfunctions (12 percent), other unintentional, careless actions (11 percent), and intentional (9 percent).
  • A peak in large loss building fires is seen between the hours of 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.
    Attics are the primary origin of all large loss building fires, along with cooking areas or kitchens.

Large Loss Building Fires (PDF, 834 Kb) is part of the Topical Fire Report Series. 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.

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