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Monday January 08, 2018

Vacant Residences Are Sites of 23.8K Fires Annually, Finds USFA

There were some 23,800 fires in vacant residential buildings per year in 2013-2015, according to estimates made available January 2 by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). They resulted in about 75 deaths, 200 injuries, and $785 million in property loss each year, and they represented about 6% of all residential fires. However, the agency deemed them potentially more troubling than fires in occupied homes, explaining:

"The surrounding nonvacant properties are also at risk when vacant residential buildings catch fire. It typically takes longer for vacant residential building fires to be detected, as there are no occupants to be alerted by the smell or sound of the fires or to respond to an alarm. Thus, the property loss is greater. In addition, if the fire has been intentionally set, especially with multiple ignition points, the damage can be greater, placing the lives of more individuals – firefighters, adjacent residents, and any squatters – in danger."

Some highlights of the report (bit.ly/2CFspI2) included:

  • Causes: Unknown (44.3%), intentional (18.7%), open flame (7.3%), other unintentional/careless (6.7%), electrical malfunction (4.2%), other heat (3.9%) under investigation (3.4%), exposure (2.9%), natural (2.1%), heating (1.6%), appliances (1.3%), cooking (1.1%), smoking (1.0%), other equipment (0.7%), equipment misoperation/ failure (0.5%) playing with heat source (0.3%).
  •  

  • Heat Sources: Undetermined (65.4%), open flame or smoking material (9.1%), powered equipment (8.3%), hot/smoldering objects (7.5%), another fire (4.1%), other (2.9%), chemical/natural (1.4%), multiple (1.3%), fireworks/explosives (1.0%).
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  • Contributing Factors: Material/product misuse (40.6%), fire spread/control (26.2%), electrical failure/malfunction (12.6%), other (12.6%), operational deficiency (4.3%), natural conditions (3.9%), mechanical failure/malfunction (3.0%), design/manufacture/installation deficiency (1.3%).