House Fire Statistics and Facts in 2020

Key insights + statistics

  • In a five-year period, house fires caused 2,620 deaths and $6.9 billion in property damage (NFPA).
  • In 2018, the national average was 2.5 civilian fire deaths and 9.8 injuries per 1,000 fires (NFDR).
  • The top three causes of fires in homes are cooking, heating equipment, and electrical malfunction (FEMA).
  • It can take just 30 seconds for a small flame to turn into a major blaze (Department of Homeland Security).
  • An average of 358,500 homes experience a structural fire each year (NFPA).
  • More than 3,000 Americans die in fires each year (FEMA).
  • Every day, at least one child dies from a fire inside the home (Stanford Children’s Hospital). 

 

What causes a house fire?

Take extra care when making dinner; cooking is the leading cause of house fires in the nation. Additionally caused by faulty heating equipment and electrical malfunction, each year there’s an average of 358,000 house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires result in 7 deaths every day. When engaging with your appliances, be sure everything is up to code and safe to use. Adhere to NFPA guidelines around open flames and you can prevent you and your family from becoming a statistic.

In this report, you will find relevant house fire statistics, including 2020 data. Compiled from national organizations, such as the U.S. Fire Administration, FEMA, and the National Fire Incident Reporting System, the following data highlights the real threat of house fires and their destructive capabilities. With support from The Zebra’s own proprietary data, we can examine the prevalence and economic impact of these common disasters. 

 

Table of contents

  1. House fire statistics in 2020
  2. House fire statistics by year
  3. Home fire death statistics
  4. Economic loss due to house fire damages
  5. What causes house fires?
  6. Fire safety tips
  7. How does a house fire claim affect your homeowners insurance?
  8. FAQs about house fires

 

House fire statistics in 2020

In October of 2020, The Zebra surveyed 1,500 Americans to gain insight into the basic fire safety knowledge and practices of the average US citizen. As a result, The Zebra found that most Americans are aware of proper fire prevention procedures and have done a good job protecting their homes from a potential fire. 

  • 46.2% of respondents put their fire pit at least 30 feet away from their home or any flammable objects, when the recommended distance is only 10 feet.
  • 70.3% of respondents own or have access to a fire extinguisher. 
  • Most people (56.5%) know to put a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, but there was more confusion around how many smoke detectors you should have in your home. 
  • 32.1% of respondents correctly identified that you should have a smoke alarm in every room and every floor of your home, but 31.7% believe that you need only one detector on every floor, and 31.5% think you only need one in every room. 
  • 4.7% of people believe that you only need one smoke detector for your whole house!

While many practice safe habits, others are still unaware of the potential dangers of a house fire, and other methods of fire prevention. 

  • Over two-thirds of respondents (67.7%) did not know that cooking was the leading cause of house fires.
  • 39.1% believe a house fire can reach the same temperature as a propane flame, but the hottest a house fire can get is 2,552 degrees fahrenheit (as hot as a candle flame).
  • 31.2% are unaware that wildfire damage is not covered under the average homeowners insurance policy. 
  • Almost one fifth (19.3%) of respondents do not have a fire evacuation plan for their home. 
What is the number one cause of house fires_.png

 

House fire statistics by year 

According to the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. Fire Administration, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

  • Every year, there’s an average of 358,300 home-based fires.
  • The CDC reported in 2013 that over 125,000 children were treated for burns.
  • There were over 14,000 fire injuries as a result of 364,000 residential fires in 2016
  • In 2017, businesses across the country experienced over $31 million in property loss from fire damage.
  • There were 499,000 structure fire cases in 2017.
  • In 2017, there were more than 26,000 house fires, caused by faulty wiring.
  • In 2017, there were at least 1,319,500 fires (wildfire, house fire, and commercial) in the United States that resulted in 3,400 deaths.
  • Fire departments and fire services responded to fires in the United States every 24 seconds in 2018.

 

Home fire deaths

For more information, review the full reports by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), and the National Safety Council:

  • One civilian fire-related death occurs every 144 minutes or a little over every two hours.
  • In 2018, 82 firefighters died while on duty. 
  • Home fires account for 92% of civilian fire deaths.
  • On average, seven people die in a fire a day.
  • House fires cause an average of 2,620 civilian deaths each year.
  • The majority of home fire deaths are caused by smoke inhalation.
  • Every year 500 children (14 and younger) are killed by fire.
  • More than 50% of children ages 5 and younger die while asleep during a fire. 
  • One civilian fire-related injury occurs every 35 minutes, or a little every half hour.

 

Economic loss due to house fire damages

From national databases within government entities such as the U.S. Fire Administration and NFPA, and the Insurance Information Institute: 

  • House fires cause nearly 12 billion dollars in damage each year.
  • A building fire in a commercial kitchen can cost $23,000 in damages.
  • Between 2013 and 2017, house fires cost Americans $6.5 billion every year.
  • Fire losses grew from $13 billion to $28 billion in nine years (2000 - 2009).
  • Every year $11.1 billion is lost to property damage caused by home fires.
  • Christmas tree fires cause approximately $17.5-million in damages annually.
  • Most fires that started as a candle fire as a heat source occur on Christmas, Christmas eve and New Year’s Day.

 

What causes house fires? - the facts

The following data comes from the U.S. Fire Administration, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), FEMA, and Ready.gov:   

  • The top three causes of residential fires are cooking (50% of all fires), heating equipment (12.5%), and electrical malfunction (6.3%).
  • A house fire happens every 87 seconds. 
  • Over 22% of non-residential fires are electrical fires, caused by short circuits or wiring problems.
  • Thanksgiving is the peak day for cooking fires.
  • NFPA reports that close to 30% of fires start in homes. 
  • Each year, over 18,000 fires are started due to fireworks.
  • In less than five minutes, the heat from a house fire can reach over 1100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • 45% of the home fires in the fall months when most Americans use their fireplaces to keep warm.
  • 96% of all homes in the United States have had some form of fire or smoke-related damage. 
  • According to Stanford Children’s Hospital, of the children hospitalized for burns, 20% of children under age 4 are treated for contact burns.

 

Fire safety tips

Even one death due to a house fire is too many. Review these fire safety tips and install the proper fire prevention measures in your house. If you’d like more information, the National Safety Council has additional details on how to keep your home safe. 

  • If you use space heaters or any other portable heaters, be sure to keep these heaters at least 3 feet away from any flammable objects, such as blankets or curtains.
  • Space heaters should also be kept on tile or ceramic flooring — away from combustible surfaces such as carpet or a rug.
  • Consider purchasing a space heater that automatically shuts off in the event it’s tipped over. 
  • Be sure to extinguish the embers in a fireplace or the flame of a candle when you leave the room.
  • Install a fire alarm in every room and every floor of your home. Install a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home. Test all devices yearly and replace batteries as needed. 
  • If the unthinkable happens and you do find yourself in a house fire, remember: 
    • “Stop, drop, and roll” if your clothing is on fire.
    • Crawl low to the floor and keep your airways covered. 
    • Touch door handles to test if they’re hot before opening the door.
  • To open and use a fire extinguisher, use the following acronym: PASS
    • Pull the pin
    • Aim low at the base of the fire
    • Squeeze the handle slowly
    • Sweep the nozzle side to side

 

How does a house fire claim affect your homeowners insurance?

As these are common occurrences, accidental house fires caused by things like faulty appliances and electrical wiring are among the standard risks covered by homeowners insurance.

The dwelling and other structures portions of your homeowners insurance would payout to repair or replace your property, along with any detached structures near your home, if they are lost in a residential fire. The following are endorsements you can add to your policy that would extend the coverage limit in the event your standard limit won't be enough to fully restore your loss.

  • Extended replacement cost coverage: Extends dwelling limit up to 50%.
  • Guaranteed replacement cost coverage: Guarantees replacement regardless of an increase in construction and rebuilding costs.

If your home becomes inhabitable following a loss and is in need of repair, loss of use (sometimes called additional living expenses) covers your expenses when you need to find another place to stay. It generally covers hotel and lodging costs, but may also cover food and fuel, depending on your policy.

As with most claims, a house fire can increase your insurance rates. Adding house fire coverage to your policy would increase your rates by about 21%, but any following claims would increase it by less than 5%. 

Average Homeowners Insurance Premium Increase.png

If you're looking for cheap homeowners insurance after a wildfire claim, take a look at some of the post-fire claim rates from top insurance companies below to get started in your search. Remember that our rate-gathering methodology likely does not match your own homeowners profile exactly.

HOME INSURANCE PREMIUMS BY COMPANY AFTER FIRE CLAIM
Insurance CompanyRate After Fire Claim
Allstate$1,968
American Family$1,716
Farmers$2,108
Liberty Mutual$1,699
Nationwide$1,745
State Farm$1,313
Travelers$1,873
USAA$1,610


With a monthly premium of $109, State Farm proved to be the cheapest company after a fire incident. Liberty Mutual and USAA are also worth looking into if you're concerned with the affordability of your rate after a fire claim.

 

 

FAQs about house fires

Question: What percentage of fire deaths occur in the home?

Answer: 79% of fire deaths and 73% of all reported fire injuries were caused by home fires, according to the NFPA.

 

Q: How common is a house fire?

A: According to the Insurance Information Institute, a home fire occurs every 87 seconds.

 

Q: How many house fires are caused by fireplaces?

A: 21,510 of all house fires are caused by chimney fires.

 

Q: How many house fires occur every day in the United States?

A: An estimated 358,500 home fires occur every year. 50% of these fires start in the kitchen, 7% begin in the bedroom, and 6% are chimney fires, 4% of all residential home fires start in the living room, while 3% start from the laundry room.

 

Copyright © 2020 InsuranceZebra, Inc. All rights reserved. For inquiries regarding this content, please contact our team at statistics@thezebra.com. 

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Methodology

This study was conducted for The Zebra using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in 2020.

Copyright © 2021 InsuranceZebra, Inc. All rights reserved. For inquiries regarding this content, please contact our team at statistics@thezebra.com.

 

Resources

Home Structure Fires report

The Insurance Information Institute

Important Fire Statistics | Blank Children's Hospital

US fire statistics

Home Fire Facts

Fire Safety and Burns--Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates

Home Structure Fires report

National Safety Council

Taylor Covington
Taylor Covington LinkedIn

An in-house quantitative researcher for The Zebra, Taylor collects, organizes, and analyzes opinions and data to solve problems, explore issues, and predict trends. In her hometown of Austin, Texas, she can be found reading at Half Price Books or eating the world's greatest pizza at Via 313.