Property and Life Losses Up
Fire killed approximately 12,100 people in the United States during 1966, the National Fire Protection Association reported. This was an increase of 100 over the previous year’s total, and equalled the record of 12,100 fire deaths set in 1954.
Property destroyed by fire in 1966 totaled $1,800,000,000, according to preliminary estimates. This is an increase of nearly $60 million from the previous year, when losses were $1,741,300,000. If the final loss figure remains at $1,800,000,000, it will set a new all-time high. Previous high for U. S. property losses from fire was $1,788,000,000 in 1963. The increases in fire deaths and property losses, NFPA noted, were about in proportion to increases in population and property values.
Loss of life in dwelling fires in 1966 totaled approximately 6,500, the same figure reported by NFPA for the previous year. Almost one-third of all fire victims in the home—about 2,100—were children.
The worst U. S. fire tragedies of 1966 occurred in transportation. Fire in flight was one factor causing the crash of an airliner at Falls City, Neb., on August 6, killing 42 persons. Fire following the collision of two tankers in New York Harbor on June 16 killed 33 crewmen, and fire during salvage operations of one of the tankers several days later killed an additional four persons.
The 1966 building fire causing the worst loss of life occurred September 12, when 14 people were killed in a substandard Alaskan hotel in Anchorage. Twelve fire fighters died in New York City on October 17 when they were caught in a structural collapse while fighting a basement fire.
Of the $1,800,000,000 property loss total in the NFPA preliminary estimate for 1966, $1,484,000,000 represents damage to buildings and contents. This accounted for about $30,000,000 of the increase. Non-building fires—those involving aircraft, ships, motor vehicles and similar equipment as well as forests—cost about $316,000,000 in 1966.
A warehouse fire in San Francisco on April 28 was the most costly in terms of property damage. Although final figures have not yet been set, estimates indicate the loss total may reach approximately $8,000,000. Another warehouse fire, in Syracuse, N. Y., on November 2, cost an estimated S5,000,000.