Home Structure Fires Involving Christmas Trees

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1 Home Structure Fires Involving Christmas Trees November, 2016 Marty Ahrens November 2016 National Fire Protection Association

2 Abstract Christmas trees are a traditional part of the Christmas holiday. They can also be a major source of fuel in a fire. National estimates of reported home structure fires derived from the U.S. Fire Administration s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and NFPA s annual fire department experience survey show that in , Christmas trees were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 210 reported home structure fires per year, resulting in an annual average of six civilian fire deaths, 16 civilian fire injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage. On average, one of every 34 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires. This report describes the common causes and circumstances of these fires. These findings identify issues that should be highlighted for Christmas tree safety. Keywords: fire statistics, home fires, Christmas trees, residential fires Acknowledgements The National Fire Protection Association thanks all the fire departments and state fire authorities who participate in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the annual NFPA fire experience survey. These firefighters are the original sources of the detailed data that make this analysis possible. Their contributions allow us to estimate the size of the fire problem. We are also grateful to the U.S. Fire Administration for its work in developing, coordinating, and maintaining NFIRS. For more information about the National Fire Protection Association, visit or call To learn more about the One-Stop Data Shop go to or call National Fire Protection Association One-Stop Data Shop 1 Batterymarch Park Quincy, MA phone: NFPA No. USS39

3 Table of Contents Page Table of Contents List of Tables & Figures Home Christmas Tree Fires Fact Sheet i ii iii Home Fires Originating with Christmas Trees 1 Causes of Christmas Tree Fires 5 Appendix A. How National Estimates Statistics Are Calculated 17 Appendix B. Selected Published Incidents 24 Home Structure Fires Involving i NFPA Research, MA

4 List of Tables and Figures U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited: Page Figure 1. By Year 1 Figure 2. By Five-Year Rolling Averages 3 Figure 3. By Month 3 Figure 4. By Time of Alarm 4 Table 1. ByYear 8 Table 2. By Extent of Flame Damage 9 Table 3. By Factor Contributing to Ignition 10 Table 4 By Cause of Ignition 12 Table 5. By Equipment Involved in Ignition 13 Table 6. By Heat Source 14 Table 7. By Area of Origin 16 Home Structure Fires Involving ii NFPA Research, MA

5 HOME CHRISTMAS TREE FIRES FACT SHEET U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 210 home 1 structure fires per year that began with Christmas trees in These fires caused an annual average of six civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage. On average, one of every 34 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are much more likely to be deadly than most other fires. In one-quarter (26%) of the Christmas tree fires and 80% of the deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree. Electrical failures or malfunctions were also factors in one-quarter (26%) of Christmas tree fires. Four of every five Christmas tree fires occurred in December and January. More than two of every five Christmas tree fires (43%) were in December. More than one-third (37%) were in January. Home structure fires in which Christmas trees were first ignited by month: December 43% February- November 20% January 37% Leading causes of Christmas tree fires Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in one-third (35%) of home Christmas tree fires. Eighteen percent of home Christmas tree fires involved decorative lights. Wiring or related equipment was involved in 11%. Cords or plugs were involved in 4%. Twenty-three percent of Christmas tree fires were intentional. More than half of these intentional fires occurred in January. Heating equipment was involved in 15%. Ten percent of Christmas tree fires were started by someone playing with fire. Candles started 8% of home Christmas tree structure fires. Leading areas of origin Almost two of every five (38%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den. All of the fatalities and three-quarters of the injuries resulted from fires started in this area. Seven percent were chimney or flue fires. To learn more about holiday safety, see NFPA s Winter Holiday Safety Tips. 1 Homes include one- or two-family homes and apartments or other multi-family housing. Home Structure Fires Involving iii NFPA Fire Analysis & Research, Quincy, MA

6 Home Structure Fires Originating with Christmas Trees On average, 210 home structure fires began with Christmas trees per year. During , Christmas trees were the items first ignited in an estimated average of 210 reported home structure fires per year. These fires caused an estimated average of six civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage per year. Christmas tree fires accounted for 0.1% of the reported home fires, 0.2% of home fire deaths, 0.1% of home fire injuries, and 0.2% of the direct property damage resulting from home fires. Home Christmas tree structure fires have been fairly stable over the past decade. Table 1 and Figure 1 show that the estimated number of Christmas tree fires declined fairly steadily from 1980 through the late 1990s. Overall, these fires fell a total of 80% from a high of 850 in 1980 to 170 in 2014, the lowest point in the available estimates. Home structure fires overall fell 50% from 1980 to In recent years, the estimated number of reported home fires starting with Christmas trees has generally fallen between 170 and 280, with no clear trend up or down relative to the size of the year-to-year variation Figure 1. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited by Year Note: See Note and Source on Table 1. In , participation in NFIRS Version 5.0 was low, which means estimates for these years are highly uncertain and is why those estimates are not shown here. Deaths from Christmas tree fires peaked in the mid-1980s to early 1990s. Over the 35-year period of 1980 to 2014, the estimated number of Christmas tree fire deaths ranged from a low of zero to a high of 54. Because these statistics are projections and not a complete census of all fire deaths resulting from these fires, it is possible to have an estimate of zero deaths in a year when some deaths actually occurred. If the death was not captured in NFIRS, it would not be included in the estimates. We compensate both for fires that were reported to fire departments but not to NFIRS and for fires reported to NFIRS in which the item first ignited was unknown. This means that a fire that kills several people, when projected, can result in an artificially high estimate of deaths. 1 Marty Ahrens, Home Structure Fires (Quincy, MA: NFPA, 2016), 1. Home Structure Fires Involving 1 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

7 Data Sources, Definitions and Conventions Used in this Report Unless otherwise specified, the statistics in this analysis are national estimates of fires reported to U.S. municipal fire departments and so exclude fires reported only to Federal or state agencies or industrial fire brigades. These estimates are projections based on the detailed information collected in Version 5.0 of the U.S. Fire Administration s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS 5.0) and the National Fire Protection Association s (NFPA s) annual fire department experience survey. Except for property use and incident type, fires with unknown or unreported data were allocated proportionally in calculations of national estimates. In general, any fire that occurs in or in a structure is considered a structure fire, even if the fire was limited to contents and the building itself was not damaged. Christmas trees were identified by NFIRS 5.0 Item First Ignited code 41. Holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage were identified by Equipment Involved in Ignition code 242. Homes were captured by property use codes in the range. Structure fires were identified by incident type NFIRS 5.0 includes a category of structure fires collectively referred to as confined fires, identified by incident type. These include confined cooking fires, confined chimney or flue fires, confined trash fires, confined fuel burner or boiler fires, confined commercial compactor fires, and confined incinerator fires (incident type ). Losses are generally minimal in these fires, which by definition, are assumed to have been limited to the object of origin. Although causal data is not required for these fires, it is sometimes present. The percentage of unknown data is much higher for confined fires than non-confined fires. For fires originating with Christmas trees, confined and non-confined fires were analyzed separately and summed for Cause of Ignition, Heat Source, Factor Contributing to Ignition, Area of Origin, and Item First Ignited. Non-confined fires were analyzed for Equipment Involved in Ignition. For that table, confined fires were not broken out further and were grouped by incident type with the non-confined fires. Casualty and loss projections can be heavily influenced by the inclusion or exclusion of one unusually serious fire. Property damage has not been adjusted for inflation. Fires are rounded to the nearest ten, civilian deaths and injuries to the nearest one, and direct property damage to the nearest hundred thousand. Additional details on the methodology may be found in Appendix A. Home Structure Fires Involving 2 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

8 Figure 2 shows five-year estimated averages of deaths, beginning with the period of , and ending with Because of low participation in NFIRS Version 5.0 in , those estimates are highly uncertain and are not shown here Figure 2. Deaths in Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited Five-Year Rolling Averages Four out of five Christmas tree fires were reported in December or January. Figure 3 shows that 43% of reported home Christmas tree fires occurred in December and 37% were reported in January. The longer a tree is kept after Christmas, the more likely it is to dry out and become easy to ignite. Figure 4 shows that these fires peaked between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Two-thirds (69%) of the fires occurred between noon and midnight. Figure 3. Home Structure Fires in which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited, by Month: January, 37% December, 43% February-November, 20% Home Structure Fires Involving 3 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

9 Figure 4. Home Structure Fires in which Christmas Trees Were First Ignited by Time of Alarm: % 20% 15% 10% 5% 10% 5% 4% 12% 17% 17% 20% 16% 0% Fire spread was limited to the room of origin in almost two-thirds of these fires. Table 2 shows that one-quarter (26%) of the reported fires that began with Christmas trees were confined fires identified by NFIRS incident type. Presumably, damage in these fires was confined to the object of origin. Nine percent of the Christmas tree home structure fires had flame damage confined to the object of origin but did not have one of the six NFIRS incident type codes indicating a confined structure fire. The fire spread beyond the Christmas tree but was limited to the room of origin in 28% of the fires. All of the deaths from Christmas tree fires were caused by incidents in which flame damage spread beyond the room of origin. If a Christmas tree fire occurs, the risk of death is unusually high. Although the number of home structure fires beginning with Christmas trees is relatively small, it is important to remember that these items are generally in use a short time each year. When they do occur, Christmas tree fires are unusually likely to be serious. In , on average, one of every 34 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires. Four examples of deadly Christmas tree fires illustrate how these fires can happen. These incidents, taken from NFPA s Fire Incident Data Organization (FIDO) anecdotal database, were previously published in either NFPA Journal s Firewatch column, or in NFPA s studies of catastrophic fires. The full published incident descriptions may be found in Appendix B. A 14-year-old boy died in a 2007 fire in an Illinois single-family home that started when lights on the Christmas tree failed and ignited the tree. The fire spread to wall coverings and the couch. 2 Four people, including a 1-year old boy, a 12-year-old girl, a 38-year-old woman, and a 40-year-old man, died in a 2007 Pennsylvania fire in a single-family home that started when an electrical fault ignited combustibles, including an artificial Christmas tree and 2 Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2008, Christmas Tree Fire Kills One, Illinois, NFPA Journal, March/April, Home Structure Fires Involving 4 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

10 a sofa. Three people were injured when they jumped from other floors to escape the blaze. 3 In 2005, a Christmas tree fire started by an extension cord in a Tennessee single-family dwelling killed four people. 4 Causes of Christmas Tree Fires Electrical problems were factors in one-quarter of home Christmas tree fires. Table 3 shows that one-quarter (26%) of home Christmas tree fires occurred when some type of heat source, such as a candle, heating equipment or electrical lights, was too close to the tree. Eighty percent of Christmas tree fire deaths were caused by these incidents. Some type of electrical failure or malfunction was a factor in another quarter (26%) of the fires and one-fifth (19%) of associated civilian deaths. An unclassified misuse of material or product was a factor in 11% of the fires. Ten percent of the fires resulted from someone playing with fire or other heat source; an outside or open fire for waste disposal was a factor in another 10%, and abandoned or discarded material was a factor in 9% of these incidents. Almost one-quarter of home Christmas tree fires were intentional. Table 4 shows that 23% of home Christmas tree structure fires were intentionally set. More than half (52%) of the intentional Christmas tree fires occurred in January. Decorative lights were involved in 18% of the fires. Some type of electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in one-third (35%) of home Christmas tree fires. Table 5 shows that decorative lights (including holiday lights) were involved in 18% of these fires, while wiring or related equipment was involved in 11%, and cords or plugs were involved in 4%. No equipment was involved in one-quarter (23%) of the incidents. Some type of heating equipment was involved 15% of the fires. Fireplaces or chimneys were involved in 8% of total fires. Candles started 8% of home Christmas tree structure fires. Arcing was the heat source in 16% of home Christmas tree structure fires, 14% were started by matches, 10% were started by radiated or conducted heat, hot embers or ashes started 9%, candles started 8%, and unclassified heat from powered equipment from operating equipment (like a space heater started another 8% of the fires. (See Table 6.) The living room, family room or den was the leading area of origin for Christmas tree fires. Table 7 shows that almost two of every five (38%) home structure Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room or den. All of the deaths, three-quarters (74%) of the injuries, and 61% of the direct property damage associated with home Christmas tree fires 3 Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2009, House Fire Kills Four, Pennsylvania, NFPA Journal, January/February, Kenneth J. Tremblay, 2006, Overloaded Extension Cord Ignites Christmas Tree, Tennessee, NFPA Journal, November/December, 20. Home Structure Fires Involving 5 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

11 resulted from fires beginning in that area. Nine percent of the fires began in an unclassified outside area accounted, 8% started in an unclassified function area, and 7% were confined chimney or flue fires. A disproportionate share of Christmas tree fires involved natural trees. The data element type of material first ignited provides the best indication of whether the Christmas tree was artificial or natural. The code for plastic implies an artificial tree (although it could also refer to plastic ornaments on the tree) and the codes for unclassified natural product, unclassified wood or paper, round timber and sawn wood all imply a natural tree. Other codes for wood do not as clearly relate to a natural tree and also make little difference in the share of fires attributable to natural trees. Based on these coding conventions, fires involving natural trees outnumber fires involving artificial trees by about 3 to 1, and the ratios are even higher for associated losses: 23 to 1 for civilian injuries and 6 to 1 for direct property damage. No deaths were estimated for artificial tree fires. According to results of annual consumer surveys by the National Christmas Tree Association, purchases of real trees outnumbered purchases of artificial trees by 1.9-to-3.3 in However, most artificial trees are used for more than one year. A 2015 Nielsen survey commissioned by the American Christmas Tree Association found that 99 million American housholds (77%) said they would have a Christmas tree in their home. Nineteen pecent of the trees were real and 81% were artificial. Five percent of households planned to have both real and artificial trees on display while eleven percent of the househoulds with artificial trees planned to display more than one artificial tree. 6 This implies a considerably higher fire risk with natural trees. Dry natural trees catch fire easily, but trees that have been kept moist do not. In 1999, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted tests to measure the heat release of Scotch Pine Christmas trees. Seven trees had been allowed to dry out for three weeks, while the eighth had been cut fresh and kept in a bucket of water. The first seven trees had dry needles that were slightly brown and brittle and fell when a branch was shaken. The eighth tree had greener pliable needles that did not separate from the tree as easily. An electric match easily ignited the first seven trees, but the electric match did not ignite the eighth tree that had been kept moist. 7 White, DeMars, and Bishop also explored the flammability of Christmas trees. 8 They cited a 1963 Canada Department of Forestry Study by C. E. Van Wagner that found that matches 5 National Christmas Tree Association, Consumer Survey Results, Accessed on November 7, American Christmas Tree Association, Christmas Trees Are the Centerpiece of American Family Holiday Celebrations December 1, Accessed on November 7, D.W. Stroup, L. DeLauter, J. Lee and G. Roadarmel. Scotch Pine Christmas Tree Fire Tests: Report of Test FR 4010, Gaithersburg, MD. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Building and Fire Research Laboratory, December 1,1999. Accessed on November 7, Robert H. White, Donald DeMars, and Mark Bishop. "Flammability of Christmas Trees and Other Vegetation," Proceedings of the International Conference on Fire Safety, Volume 24, 1997, Accessed on November 7, Home Structure Fires Involving 6 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

12 could not ignite Christmas trees that had been continuously standing in water. However, if a tree had dried to below the moisture recovery limit, it continued to dry out even if again placed in water. The same study found that a burning ring around the base of the tree could ignite the crown of any of the trees. They tested trees with four different types of initial conditioning: immediately placed in water, bundled, laid in a pile without bundling, and bundled but left in storage. Different types of trees were cut according to industry practices for that type. In three conditions, the tree was stored in an apartment. In the fourth, the trees were kept in a garage. In final conditioning for all four, the bottom of each tree was trimmed and the tree was placed in water. Tests were done with four ignition sources: a match, a lighter, a sustained electric arc, and an overheated wire. In most cases, no ignition occurred. In a few, some needles ignited, but the fire was self-extinguished after the heat source was removed. The authors concluded: If proper procedures of cutting the stem and keeping it in plain water are followed by the consumer, our MN data support the position that the moisture content of the tree will likely be sufficient to make accidental ignition of the tree itself from matches, lighter, electric arc, or overheated wire very unlikely. The authors also noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Products Library (FPL) no longer encourages the use of fire-retardant coatings with Christmas trees and instead stresses the importance of trimming the stem and keeping the tree in water. NFPA s Winter holiday safety tips provides tips specifically about Christmas tree safety, holiday decorating and other holiday activities. Home Structure Fires Involving 7 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

13 Year Table 1. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Year Fires Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Direct Property Damage (in Millions (in 2014 Dollars) $11.1 $ $7.0 $ $7.9 $ $9.8 $ $10.9 $ $13.3 $ $9.2 $ $11.2 $ $10.4 $ $14.1 $ $19.4 $ $18.0 $ $20.9 $ $33.4 $ $11.4 $ $19.1 $ $13.2 $ $10.3 $ $8.0 $ (380) 58 (58) $26.9 ($26.9) $ (380) 55 (55) $36.8 ($36.8) $ (290) 0 (0) $20.5 ($20.5) $ (270) 15 (15) $15.3 ($15.3) $ (210) 31 (31) $10.4 ($10.4) $ (180) 16 (16) $15.9 ($15.9) $ (210) 42 (42) $12.0 ($12.0) $ (150) 10 (10) $14.1 ($14.1) $ (200) 33 (33) $15.0 ($15.0) $ (150) 18 (18) $25.2 ($25.2) $ (170) 30 (30) $17.6 ($17.6) $ (160) 15 (15) $14.4 ($14.4) $ (160) 13 (13) $18.7 ($18.7) $ (190) 25 (25) $22.7 ($22.7) $ (120) 14 (14) $14.4 ($14.4) $ (130) 16 (16) $10.4 ($10.4) $10.4 Note: Estimates for are based on data collected originally in NFIRS 5.0 only. The estimates shown without parentheses are sums of the non-confined (shown in parentheses) and the confined fire (not shown) estimates. Confined fires are reported as confined to cooking vessel, chimney or flue, boiler or burner, incinerator, compactor, or trash. No injuries and very minimal property damage resulted from these confined fires. Due to the smaller share of NFIRS data collected in , statistics for these years should be viewed with caution. Source: Data from NFIRS Version 4.1 ( ) and Version 5.0 ( ) and from NFPA fire department experience survey. Inflation adjustments were based on the consumer price index purchasing power of the dollar. Home Structure Fires Involving 8 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

14 Table 2. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Extent of Flame Damage Annual Averages Extent of Flame Damage Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Confined fire identified by incident type 50 (26%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Confined to object of origin 20 (9%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.2 (1%) Confined to room of origin 60 (28%) 0 (0%) 8 (48%) $3.0 (19%) Confined to floor of origin 20 (7%) 0 (0%) 1 (3%) $1.1 (7%) Confined to building of origin 50 (25%) 5 (86%) 6 (36%) $10.2 (63%) Extended beyond building of origin 10 (4%) 1 (14%) 2 (13%) $1.7 (11%) Total 210 (100%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $16.2 (100%) Note: Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA fire department experience survey. Home Structure Fires Involving 9 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

15 Table 3. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Factor Contributing to Ignition Annual Averages Factor Contributing Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Heat source too close to combustibles 50 (26%) 5 (80%) 9 (53%) $7.3 (45%) Non-confined 50 (23%) 5 (80%) 9 (53%) $7.3 (45%) Confined 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Electrical failure or malfunction 50 (26%) 1 (19%) 4 (23%) $7.1 (44%) Non-confined 50 (26%) 1 (19%) 4 (23%) $7.1 (44%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassified misuse of material or product 20 (11%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (1%) Non-confined 10 (5%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (1%) Confined 10 (7%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Playing with heat source 20 (10%) 0 (0%) 4 (23%) $0.5 (3%) Non-confined 10 (7%) 0 (0%) 4 (23%) $0.5 (3%) Confined 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Outside or open fire for debris or waste disposal 20 (10%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Non-confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Confined 20 (10%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Abandoned or discarded material or product 20 (9%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.2 (1%) Non-confined 10 (4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.2 (1%) Confined 10 (5%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassified factor contributed to ignition 10 (6%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.5 (3%) Non-confined 10 (5%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.5 (3%) Confined 0 (1%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Other known factor contributing to ignition 30 (15%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $3.4 (21%) Non-confined 30 (12%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $3.4 (21%) Confined 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Total fires 210 (100%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $16.2 (100%) Non-confined 150 (74%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $16.2 (100%) Confined 50 (26%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Total factors 230 (113%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $19.1 (118%) Non-confined 170 (81%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $19.1 (118%) Confined 70 (31%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Home Structure Fires Involving 10 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

16 Table 3. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Factor Contributing to Ignition Annual Averages (Continued) Note: Multiple entries are allowed which can result in sums higher than totals. Rounding errors may also occur. Fires in which the factor contributing to ignition was coded as none, unknown, or not reported have been allocated proportionally among fires with known factor contributing to ignition. Confined structure fires (NFIRS incident type ) were analyzed separately from non-confined structure fires (incident type , except ). See Appendix A for details. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA fire department experience survey. Home Structure Fires Involving 11 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

17 Table 4. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Cause of Ignition Annual Averages Cause of Ignition Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Unintentional 120 (59%) 3 (44%) 14 (85%) $11.1 (68%) Non-confined 110 (51%) 3 (44%) 14 (85%) $11.0 (68%) Confined 20 (8%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Intentional 50 (23%) 0 (0%) 1 (4%) $0.4 (3%) Non-confined 10 (7%) 0 (0%) 1 (4%) $0.4 (3%) Confined 30 (16%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Failure of equipment or heat source 30 (14%) 1 (14%) 2 (11%) $4.5 (28%) Non-confined 30 (14%) 1 (14%) 2 (11%) $4.5 (28%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Act of nature 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (1%) Non-confined 0 (1%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (1%) Confined 0 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassified cause of ignition 0 (1%) 3 (42%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (1%) Non-confined 0 (1%) 3 (42%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (1%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Total 210 (100%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $16.2 (100%) Non-confined 150 (74%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $16.2 (100%) Confined 50 (26%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Note: Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. Confined structure fires (NFIRS incident type ) were analyzed separately from non-confined structure fires (incident type , except ). See Appendix A for details. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA fire department experience survey. Home Structure Fires Involving 12 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

18 Table 5. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Equipment Involved in Ignition Annual Averages Equipment Involved Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Electrical distribution and lighting equipment 70 (35%) 3 (47%) 7 (42%) $9.9 (61%) Decorative lights 40 (18%) 3 (47%) 5 (28%) $3.7 (23%) Wiring and related equipment 20 (11%) 0 (0%) 2 (15%) $5.2 (32%) Cord or plug 10 (4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.7 (5%) Unclassified lamp or lighting 10 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.3 (2%) No equipment involved in ignition 50 (23%) 0 (0%) 2 (15%) $4.2 (26%) Contained trash or rubbish fire 40 (18%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Heating equipment 30 (15%) 3 (53%) 0 (0%) $1.2 (7%) Fireplace or chimney, including confined chimney or flue fires 20 (8%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Central heat 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.7 (4%) Fixed or portable space heater 10 (3%) 3 (53%) 0 (0%) $0.3 (2%) Cooking equipment 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 2 (14%) $0.4 (2%) Other known equipment involved in ignition 10 (7%) 0 (0%) 5 (29%) $0.4 (2%) Total 210 (100%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $16.2 (100%) *The estimates for equipment involved in ignition did not break out the confined fires further. Note: Non-confined fires in which the equipment involved in ignition was unknown or not reported have been allocated proportionally among fires with known equipment involved. Fires in which the equipment involved in ignition was entered as none but the heat source indicated equipment involvement or the heat source was unknown were also treated as unknown and allocated proportionally among fires with known equipment involved. Nonconfined fires in which the equipment was partially unclassified (i.e., unclassified kitchen or cooking equipment, unclassified heating, cooling or air condition equipment, etc.) were allocated proportionally among fires that grouping (kitchen or cooking equipment; heating, cooling or air conditioning equipment, etc.). Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA fire department experience survey. Home Structure Fires Involving 13 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

19 Table 6. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Heat Source Annual Averages Heat Source Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Arcing 30 (16%) 1 (16%) 3 (17%) $3.3 (20%) Non-confined 30 (16%) 1 (16%) 3 (17%) $3.3 (20%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Match 30 (14%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.2 (1%) Non-confined 0 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.2 (1%) Confined 30 (12%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Radiated or conducted heat from operating equipment 20 (10%) 2 (35%) 1 (8%) $2.3 (14%) Non-confined 20 (10%) 2 (35%) 1 (8%) $2.3 (14%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Hot ember or ash 20 (9%) 0 (0%) 1 (8%) $0.6 (4%) Non-confined 10 (4%) 0 (0%) 1 (8%) $0.6 (4%) Confined 10 (5%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Candle 20 (8%) 3 (48%) 0 (0%) $3.0 (19%) Non-confined 20 (8%) 3 (48%) 0 (0%) $3.0 (19%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassified heat from powered equipment 20 (8%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $1.4 (9%) Non-confined 10 (7%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $1.4 (9%) Confined 0 (1%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassified hot or smoldering object 20 (7%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $1.1 (7%) Non-confined 10 (5%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $1.1 (7%) Confined 0 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Lighter 10 (7%) 0 (0%) 4 (23%) $0.3 (2%) Non-confined 10 (5%) 0 (0%) 4 (23%) $0.3 (2%) Confined 0 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassified heat source 10 (5%) 0 (0%) 1 (9%) $1.1 (7%) Non-confined 10 (5%) 0 (0%) 1 (9%) $1.1 (7%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Lightning 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.7 (4%) Non-confined 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.7 (4%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Flame or torch used for lighting 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (0%) Non-confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (0%) Confined 0 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Other known heat source 20 (11%) 0 (0%) 6 (35%) $2.0 (12%) Non-confined 20 (10%) 0 (0%) 6 (35%) $2.0 (12%) Confined 0 (1%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Home Structure Fires Involving 14 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

20 Table 6. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Heat Source Annual Averages (Continued) Heat Source Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Total 210 (100%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $16.2 (100%) Non-confined 150 (74%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $16.2 (100%) Confined 50 (26%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Note: Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. The statistics on matches, lighters, smoking materials and candles include a proportional share of fires in which the heat source was heat from an unclassified open flame or smoking material. Confined structure fires (NFIRS incident type ) were analyzed separately from non-confined structure fires (incident type , except ). See Appendix A for details. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA fire department experience survey. Home Structure Fires Involving 15 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

21 Table 7. U.S. Home Structure Fires in Which Christmas Trees Were the Item First Ignited, by Area of Origin Annual Averages Area of Origin Fires Civilian Deaths Civilian Injuries Direct Property Damage (in Millions) Living room, family room or den 80 (38%) 6 (100%) 12 (74%) $9.9 (61%) Non-confined 80 (38%) 6 (100%) 12 (74%) $9.9 (61%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassified outside area 20 (9%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Non-confined 0 (1%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Confined 20 (8%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassifed function area 10 (7%) 0 (0%) 1 (3%) $1.0 (6%) Non-confined 10 (7%) 0 (0%) 1 (3%) $1.0 (6%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Confined chimney or flue fire* 10 (7%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Non-confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Confined 10 (7%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Dining room 10 (4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.4 (2%) Non-confined 10 (4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.4 (2%) Confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Unclassified area of origin 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (1%) Non-confined 0 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.1 (1%) Confined 0 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Kitchen or cooking area 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 2 (10%) $0.4 (3%) Non-confined 10 (2%) 0 (0%) 2 (10%) $0.4 (3%) Confined 0 (1%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Interior stairway or ramp 10 (3%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Non-confined 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Confined 10 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Other known area of origin 40 (17%) 0 (0%) 2 (13%) $2.6 (16%) Non-confined 30 (13%) 0 (0%) 2 (13%) $2.6 (16%) Confined 10 (4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) Total 210 (100%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $16.2 (100%) Non-confined 150 (74%) 6 (100%) 16 (100%) $16.2 (100%) Confined 50 (26%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) $0.0 (0%) * Chimney is no longer a valid area of origin for non-confined fires. Note: Sums may not equal totals due to rounding errors. All fires with the confined chimney or flue incident type (NFIRS incident type 114) are shown separately. Chimney is no longer an area of origin choice for non-confined fires. Other confined structure fires (NFIRS incident type 113, and ) were analyzed separately from non-confined structure fires (incident type , except ). See Appendix A for details. Source: NFIRS 5.0 and NFPA fire department experience survey. Home Structure Fires Involving 16 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

22 Appendix A. How National Estimates Statistics Are Calculated The statistics in this analysis are estimates derived from the U.S. Fire Administration s (USFA s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association s (NFPA s) annual survey of U.S. fire departments. NFIRS is a voluntary system by which participating fire departments report detailed factors about the fires to which they respond. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. fire departments participate, although not all of these departments provide data every year. Fires reported to federal or state fire departments or industrial fire brigades are not included in these estimates. NFIRS provides the most detailed incident information of any national database not limited to large fires. NFIRS is the only database capable of addressing national patterns for fires of all sizes by specific property use and specific fire cause. NFIRS also captures information on the extent of flame spread, and automatic detection and suppression equipment. For more information about NFIRS visit Copies of the paper forms may be downloaded from https://www.nfirs.fema.gov/documentation/design/nfirs_paper_forms_2012.pdf. NFIRS has a wide variety of data elements and code choices. The NFIRS database contains coded information. Many code choices describe several conditions. These cannot be broken down further. For example, area of origin code 83 captures fires starting in vehicle engine areas, running gear areas or wheel areas. It is impossible to tell the portion of each from the coded data. Methodology may change slightly from year to year. NFPA is continually examining its methodology to provide the best possible answers to specific questions, methodological and definitional changes can occur. Earlier editions of the same report may have used different methodologies to produce the same analysis, meaning that the estimates are not directly comparable from year to year. NFPA s fire department experience survey provides estimates of the big picture. Each year, NFPA conducts an annual survey of fire departments which enables us to capture a summary of fire department experience on a larger scale. Surveys are sent to all municipal departments protecting populations of 50,000 or more and a random sample, stratified by community size, of the smaller departments. Typically, a total of roughly 3,000 surveys are returned, representing about one of every ten U.S. municipal fire departments and about one third of the U.S. population. The survey is stratified by size of population protected to reduce the uncertainty of the final estimate. Small rural communities have fewer people protected per department and are less likely to respond to the survey. A larger number must be surveyed to obtain an adequate sample of those departments. (NFPA also makes follow-up calls to a sample of the smaller fire departments that do not respond, to confirm that those that did respond are truly representative of fire departments their size.) On the other hand, large city departments are so few in number and protect such a large proportion of the total U.S. population that it makes sense to survey all of them. Most respond, resulting in excellent precision for their part of the final estimate. The survey includes the following information: (1) the total number of fire incidents, civilian deaths, and civilian injuries, and the total estimated property damage (in dollars), for each of the major property use classes defined in NFIRS; (2) the number of on-duty firefighter injuries, by type of duty and nature of illness; 3) the number and nature of non-fire incidents; and (4) information on the type of community protected (e.g., county versus township versus city) and the size of the population protected, which is used in the statistical formula for projecting national totals from sample results. The results of the Home Structure Fires Involving 17 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

23 survey are published in the annual report Fire Loss in the United States. To download a free copy of the report, visit Projecting NFIRS to National Estimates As noted, NFIRS is a voluntary system. Different states and jurisdictions have different reporting requirements and practices. Participation rates in NFIRS are not necessarily uniform across regions and community sizes, both factors correlated with frequency and severity of fires. This means NFIRS may be susceptible to systematic biases. No one at present can quantify the size of these deviations from the ideal, representative sample, so no one can say with confidence that they are or are not serious problems. But there is enough reason for concern so that a second database -- the NFPA survey -- is needed to project NFIRS to national estimates and to project different parts of NFIRS separately. This multiple calibration approach makes use of the annual NFPA survey where its statistical design advantages are strongest. Scaling ratios are obtained by comparing NFPA s projected totals of residential structure fires, nonresidential structure fires, vehicle fires, and outside and other fires, and associated civilian deaths, civilian injuries, and direct property damage with comparable totals in NFIRS. Estimates of specific fire problems and circumstances are obtained by multiplying the NFIRS data by the scaling ratios. Reports for incidents in which mutual aid was given are excluded from NFPA s analyses. Analysts at the NFPA, the USFA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission developed the specific basic analytical rules used for this procedure. The National Estimates Approach to U.S. Fire Statistics, by John R. Hall, Jr. and Beatrice Harwood, provides a more detailed explanation of national estimates. A copy of the article is available online at or through NFPA's One-Stop Data Shop. Version 5.0 of NFIRS, first introduced in 1999, used a different coding structure for many data elements, added some property use codes, and dropped others. The essentials of the approach described by Hall and Harwood are still used, but some modifications have been necessary to accommodate the changes in NFIRS 5.0. Figure A.1 shows the percentage of fires originally collected in the NFIRS 5.0 system. Each year s release version of NFIRS data also includes data collected in older versions of NFIRS that were converted to NFIRS 5.0 codes. From 1999 data on, analyses are based on scaling ratios using only data originally collected in NFIRS 5.0: NFPA survey projections NFIRS totals (Version 5.0) For 1999 to 2001, the same rules may be applied, but estimates for these years in this form will be less reliable due to the smaller amount of data originally collected in NFIRS 5.0; they should be viewed with extreme caution. Home Structure Fires Involving 18 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

24 Figure A.1. Fires Originally Collected in NFIRS 5.0 by Year 100% 80% 65% 79% 88% 94% 94% 97% 99% 100%100%100%100%100%100% 60% 48% 40% 20% 7% 21% 0% NFIRS 5.0 introduced six categories of confined structure fires, including: cooking fires confined to the cooking vessel, confined chimney or flue fires, confined incinerator fire, confined fuel burner or boiler fire or delayed ignition, confined commercial compactor fire, and trash or rubbish fires in a structure with no flame damage to the structure or its contents. Because this analysis focused on fatalities only, no distinction was made between confined and nonconfined fires. For most fields other than Property Use and Incident Type, NFPA allocates unknown data proportionally among known data. This approach assumes that if the missing data were known, it would be distributed in the same manner as the known data. NFPA makes additional adjustments to several fields. Casualty and loss projections can be heavily influenced by the inclusion or exclusion of unusually serious fire. In the formulas that follow, the term all fires refers to all fires in NFIRS on the dimension studied. The percentages of fires with known or unknown data are provided for non-confined fires and associated losses, and for confined fires only. Rounding and percentages. The data shown are estimates and generally rounded. An entry of zero may be a true zero or it may mean that the value rounds to zero. Percentages are calculated from unrounded values. It is quite possible to have a percentage entry of up to 100% even if the rounded number entry is zero. The same rounded value may account for a slightly different percentage share. Because percentages are expressed in integers and not carried out to several decimal places, percentages that appear identical may be associated with slightly different values. In the formulas that follow, the term all fires refers to all fires in NFIRS on the dimension studied. The percentages of fires with known or unknown data are provided for non-confined fires and associated losses, and for confined fires only. Cause of Ignition: This field is used chiefly to identify intentional fires. Unintentional in this field is a specific entry and does not include other fires that were not intentionally set: failure of equipment or heat source, act of nature, or other (unclassified). The last should be used for exposures but has been Home Structure Fires Involving 19 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

25 used for other situations as well. Fires that were coded as under investigation and those that were coded as undetermined after investigation were treated as unknown. Factor Contributing to Ignition: In this field, the code none is treated as an unknown and allocated proportionally. For Human Factor Contributing to Ignition, NFPA enters a code for not reported when no factors are recorded. Not reported is treated as an unknown, but the code none is treated as a known code and not allocated. Multiple entries are allowed in both of these fields. Percentages are calculated on the total number of fires, not entries, resulting in sums greater than 100%. Although Factor Contributing to Ignition is only required when the cause of ignition was coded as: 2) unintentional, 3) failure of equipment or heat source; or 4) act of nature, data is often present when not required. Consequently, any fire in which no factor contributing to ignition was entered was treated as unknown. In some analyses, all entries in the category of mechanical failure, malfunction (factor contributing to ignition 20-29) are combined and shown as one entry, mechanical failure or malfunction. This category includes: 21. Automatic control failure; 22. Manual control failure; 23. Leak or break. Includes leaks or breaks from containers or pipes. Excludes operational deficiencies and spill mishaps; 25. Worn out; 26. Backfire. Excludes fires originating as a result of hot catalytic converters; 27. Improper fuel used; Includes the use of gasoline in a kerosene heater and the like; and 20. Mechanical failure or malfunction, other. Entries in electrical failure, malfunction (factor contributing to ignition 30-39) may also be combined into one entry, electrical failure or malfunction. This category includes: 31. Water-caused short circuit arc; 32. Short-circuit arc from mechanical damage; 33. Short-circuit arc from defective or worn insulation; 34. Unspecified short circuit arc; 35. Arc from faulty contact or broken connector, including broken power lines and loose connections; 36. Arc or spark from operating equipment, switch, or electric fence; 37. Fluorescent light ballast; and 30. Electrical failure or malfunction, other. Heat Source. In NFIRS 5.0, one grouping of codes encompasses various types of open flames and smoking materials. In the past, these had been two separate groupings. A new code was added to NFIRS 5.0, which is code 60: Heat from open flame or smoking material, other. NFPA treats this code as a partial unknown and allocates it proportionally across the codes in the range, shown below. 61. Cigarette; 62. Pipe or cigar; 63. Heat from undetermined smoking material; 64. Match; 65. Lighter: cigarette lighter, cigar lighter; 66. Candle; 67 Warning or road flare, fuse; 68. Backfire from internal combustion engine. Excludes flames and sparks from an exhaust system, (11); and 69. Flame/torch used for lighting. Includes gas light and gas-/liquid-fueled lantern. Home Structure Fires Involving 20 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

26 In addition to the conventional allocation of missing and undetermined fires, NFPA multiplies fires with codes in the range by All fires in range All fires in range The downside of this approach is that heat sources that are truly a different type of open flame or smoking material are erroneously assigned to other categories. The grouping smoking materials includes codes (cigarettes, pipes or cigars, and heat from undetermined smoking material, with a proportional share of the code 60s and true unknown data. Equipment Involved in Ignition (EII). NFIRS 5.0 originally defined EII as the piece of equipment that provided the principal heat source to cause ignition if the equipment malfunctioned or was used improperly. In 2006, the definition was modified to the piece of equipment that provided the principal heat source to cause ignition. However, much of the data predates the change. Individuals who have already been trained with the older definition may not change their practices. To compensate, NFPA treats fires in which EII = NNN and heat source is not in the range of as an additional unknown. To allocate unknown data for EII, the known data is multiplied by All fires (All fires blank undetermined [fires in which EII =NNN and heat source <>40-99]) In addition, the partially unclassified codes for broad equipment groupings (i.e., code heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, other; code electrical distribution, lighting and power transfer, other; etc.) were allocated proportionally across the individual code choices in their respective broad groupings (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; electrical distribution, lighting and power transfer, other; etc.). Equipment that is totally unclassified is not allocated further. This approach has the same downside as the allocation of heat source 60 described above. Equipment that is truly different is erroneously assigned to other categories. In some analyses, various types of equipment are grouped together. Code Grouping EII Code NFIRS definitions Central heat 132 Furnace or central heating unit 133 Boiler (power, process or heating) Fixed or portable space heater 131 Furnace, local heating unit, built-in 123 Fireplace with insert or stove 124 Heating stove 141 Heater, excluding catalytic and oil-filled 142 Catalytic heater 143 Oil-filled heater Fireplace or chimney 120 Fireplace or chimney 121 Fireplace, masonry 122 Fireplace, factory-built 125 Chimney connector or vent connector Home Structure Fires Involving 21 NFPA Research, Quincy, MA

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