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Massive Urban Fires

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Fire is the sixth leading unintentional cause of injury and death in the United States. Fire ranks as the highest cause of death for children under the age of 15 at home.

The dangers that fires pose, include:

  • Asphyxiation: Asphyxiation is the leading cause of death in a fire, by a 3-to-1 ratio over burns.
  • Heat: A fully developed room fire has temperatures more than 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Smoke: Fire generates black, impenetrable smoke that blocks the vision, stings the eyes, and clogs the lungs. It may be impossible to navigate through such smoke.

Fires in the Home

Roughly 85 percent of all fire deaths occur where people sleep, such as in homes, dormitories, barracks, or hotels. The majority of fatal fires occur when people are less likely to be alert, such as nighttime sleeping hours.

Nearly all home and other building fires are preventable, even arson fires. Juveniles, who often respond to counseling, cause the majority of arson fires, and the rest can be prevented in a number of ways. No fire is inevitable.

On average in the United States in 2010, someone died in a fire every 169 minutes, and someone was injured every 30 minutes. Fire and burn injuries represent 1% of the incidence of injuries and 2% of the total costs of injuries, or $7.5 billion each year.

Groups at increased risk of fire-related injuries and deaths include:

  • Children 4 and under
  • Older Adults ages 65 and older
  • African Americans and Native Americans
  • The poorest Americans
  • Persons living in rural areas
  • Persons living in manufactured homes or substandard housing

Risk factors include:

  • Over one-third (37%) home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms
  • Most residential fires occur during the winter months
  • Alcohol use contributes to an estimated 40% of residential fire deaths

(Source: Centers for Disease Control)