Newly released NFPA report shows U.S. home fire deaths hit 14-year high in 2021

The latest Fire Loss in the U.S. report released by the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) shows the largest number of home fire deaths since 2007, reflecting a 14-year high. According to the report, people are more likely to die in a reported home fire today than in 1980. These statistics underscore a concerning trend: While the number of U.S. home fires has continued to decline over time, the home fire death rate has stagnated in recent years, with annual spikes like the most recent one seen in 2021.

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“While we’ve made great strides in reducing the public’s risk to fire on many fronts, the latest number of home fire deaths reinforces that today’s home fires present real challenges,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of the Outreach and Advocacy division at NFPA. “Educating the public about the increased speed at which today’s home fires grow, along with the importance of knowing how to escape quickly and safely, is critical to reducing that risk.”

According to NFPA data, home — the place people feel safest from fire — is actually where they are at greatest risk, with three-quarters (75 percent) of all U.S. fire deaths occurring in homes. Where people used to have more than 10 minutes to escape a typical home fire from the time the smoke alarm sounds, today they may have as little as two minutes.

Multiple factors contribute to this much smaller window of escape time, including the way newer homes tend to be constructed and the fact that modern home furnishings are often made with synthetic materials that burn faster and generate toxic smoke, making it extremely difficult to see and breathe.

As NFPA celebrates the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week™ on October 9-15, this year’s theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” reinforces the potentially life-saving importance of home escape planning and practice.

“To many, the concepts of home escape planning and practice may sound so simple that their value is underestimated, but the reality is that these advance preparations can truly mean the difference between life and death in a home fire – now more than ever,” said Carli. “Ask anyone who’s experienced a home fire and they will tell you how dark, scary, and disorienting a home fire can become within moments. Having a practiced plan with all members of the household builds the muscle memory needed to get out as quickly and safely as possible.”

Following are key messages behind this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.”:

  • Make sure your home escape plan meets the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.
  • Smoke alarms should be installed inside every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of your home. Smoke alarms should be interconnected so when one sounds, they all sound.
  • Know at least two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure all doors and windows open easily.
  • Have an outside meeting place a safe distance from your home where everyone should meet.
  • Practice your home fire drill at least twice a year with everyone in the household, including guests. Practice at least once during the day and at night.

At its core, Fire Prevention Week is a grassroots campaign that fire departments bring to life in their communities each year. These efforts are supported at the national level by NFPA and other organizations that work together to help amplify the campaign and its fire safety messages.

To learn more about Fire Prevention Week, visit www.firepreventionweek.org

For this release and other announcements about NFPA initiatives, research and resources, please visit the NFPA press room.

About Fire Prevention Week™

As the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week™ since 1922, the National Fire Protection Association is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the annual public awareness campaign this October. Fire Prevention Week is the longest-running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation declaring the national observance during that week every year since 1925. Visit www.firepreventionweek.org for more safety information about Fire Prevention Week.

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