USFA, NFPA release report on mitigation of the nation’s rural fire problem

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) announced the release of a comprehensive report from a joint project with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to examine what can be done to reduce the high death rate from fire in rural America. This report, Mitigation of the Rural Fire Problem–Strategies Based on Original Research and Adaptation of Existing Best Practices, provides implementation strategies for the reduction of rural fires. The report targets the fundamental differences in the nature of the rural fire problem compared to the U.S. fire problem as a whole.

“As communities with fewer than 2,500 residents have a per capita fire death rate almost twice the national rate, this is an important life safety effort,” said Gregory B. Cade, U.S. Fire Administrator. “USFA has a long commitment to reducing fire deaths in this country through effective mitigation and preparedness.”

The project reached out to leaders of organizations serving rural communities to learn what works in implementing programs in those communities. Also, national and local fire service organizations were consulted to learn more about their program successes and challenges in the reduction of fires, deaths, and injuries in rural communities.

In addition to fire protection and suppression, human issues such as public fire safety education and technical factors, including fire and smoke detection, codes, consumer product safety, and residential fire sprinklers, are discussed in the report.

“NFPA was pleased to partner with USFA on this innovative project that has identified ways to reduce fire deaths in rural America,” said James Shannon, NFPA president. “This initiative supports NFPA’s efforts in saving lives, protecting property, and reducing risks associated with fire.”

Whether it is the separation of communities from one another or the separation of residents from one another, the report finds separation to be the defining characteristic of rural America. Ultimately, separation makes it more costly to conduct business in rural communities–impacting the economy–and residents are more likely to be on the lower end of the economic scale. The communications challenges some businesses face due to separation, like print media for example, may impact the quality and ease of communication within and to a rural community. This is an example of something that may limit the distribution of safety information.

Poverty was found to be the most significant factor driving the higher fire risk in rural America. Less income means potentially fewer resources. Although rural populations have a greater need for fire safety, they have a reduced ability to fill that need without outside help. They would benefit from safer products–which can sometimes mean newer products–as well as devices designed to provide safety like smoke alarms.

This report also includes Train-the-Trainer presentations for the rural fire service and community leaders on administering successful outreach programs and a separate presentation for citizens highlighting key fire safety and preparedness messages.

The U.S. Fire Administration has a mission to reduce life and economic losses due to fire and related emergencies through leadership, advocacy, coordination and support. It is the federal leader in public fire education and awareness, fire service training, fire-related technology and data collection.

NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. Visit NFPA’s Web site at

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