About Fire

Fire hazards include threats from exposure to uncontrolled fire and associated smoke in a home. The main sources of ignition attributable to the dwelling are cooking appliances, space heaters, and electrical distribution equipment. Occupier behavior is a major factor in relation to fires starting. Over 80% of accidental fires in dwellings result from occupier carelessness or misuse of equipment or appliances, etc. Fires started by smokers’ materials and matches account for about 40% of accidental deaths from dwelling fires, with a death rate of over 30 per 1,000 reported fires, the highest death rate resulting from any cause of fire ignition.1

Facts and Figures

  • On average in the United States in 2010, someone died in a fire every 169 minutes, and someone was injured every 30 minutes.2
  • In 2010, fire departments responded to 384,000 home fires in the United States, which claimed the lives of 2,640 people (not including firefighters) and injured another 13,350, not including firefighters.2
  • Cooking is the primary cause of residential fires.2
  • Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths.2
  • Over one-third (37%) home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms.2
  • Most residential fires occur during the winter months.2
  • Alcohol use contributes to an estimated 40% of residential fire deaths2


Deaths from fires and burns are the third leading cause of fatal home injury. Most victims of fires die from smoke or toxic gases and not from burns. Although the number of fatalities and injuries caused by residential fires has declined gradually over the past several decades, many residential fire-related deaths remain preventable and continue to pose a significant public health problem.2


To help prevent health and safety risks due to fire, see below for suggested actions you can take3:

  • Never leave food unattended on a stove.
  • Keep cooking areas free of flammable objects (such as, potholders and towels).
  • Avoid wearing clothes with long, loose-fitting sleeves when cooking.
  • Never smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended.
  • Do not empty smoldering ashes in a trash can, and keep ashtrays away from upholstered furniture and curtains.
  • Never place portable space heaters near flammable materials (such as, drapery).
  • Keep all matches and lighters out of reach of children. Store them up high, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • Install smoke alarms on every floor of the home, including the basement, and particularly near rooms in which people sleep.
  • Use long-life smoke alarms with lithium-powered batteries and hush buttons, which allow persons to stop false alarms quickly. If long-life alarms are not available, use regular alarms, and replace the batteries annually.
  • Test all smoke alarms every month to ensure they work properly.
  • Devise a family fire escape plan and practice it every 6 months. In the plan, describe at least two different ways each family member can escape every room, and designate a safe place in front of the home for family members to meet after escaping a fire.
  • If possible, install or retrofit fire sprinklers into home.

Local Resources for Detroit Residents

For contact information of partner organizations that might be able to provide help with fire hazards in your home, visit our Get Help page.


1U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development: Healthy Home Rating System – Operating Guidance (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=operating_guidance_hhrs_v1.pdf)
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fire Deaths and Injuries: Fact Sheet (http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Fire-Prevention/fires-factsheet.html)
3U.S. Fire Administration/National Fire Data Center: Fire Risk, 2004 (http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v4i7.pdf)