Author(s): Jesse Roman. Published on February 8, 2021.

Home Fires Burning 

A new NFPA report offers a snapshot at the challenges related to home structure fires


First the good news: the number of home structure fires in the United States has been cut by more than half since 1980, while the rate of deaths associated with those fires has been reduced by two-thirds.

Now the less-than-good news: there’s still plenty to be concerned about.

Those are some of the key points contained in the latest NFPA Home Structure Fire Report, published in November. On the plus side, there were an estimated 339,500 home structure fires in the US in 2019, compared to 734,000 such fires in 1980. Similarly, deaths associated with those fires have fallen from about 23 home fire deaths per million population to just over 8 per million during that period.

Despite that progress, further improvement is needed. The latest Home Structure Fire Report, which is produced annually, estimates that 2,600 people died in home fires in the US in 2019, about seven people per day on average. Frustratingly, the vast majority of these fires started from five primary—and preventable—causes: cooking, heating equipment, electrical distribution/lighting, arson, and smoking. These causes accounted for 86 percent of home fires and 95 percent of home fire deaths between 2014 and 2018, the report concluded.

Here are a few additional important findings from the report—all numbers are annual averages of US home structure fires between the years 2014 and 2018:

» 27% of all US structure fires occurred in homes

» 77% of all civilian fire deaths occurred in home fires

» 49% of home fires were started by cooking, the leading cause

» 23% of home fire deaths were caused by smoking materials, the leading cause

» 41% of home fire deaths occurred in homes with no working smoke alarms

» Home fire sprinklers were present in only 7% of reported home fires

Fire sprinklers are a proven way to reduce deaths, injuries, and property loss as a result of home structure fires. NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative is an advocacy campaign aimed at increasing the number of new one- and two-family homes protected by fire sprinklers. For more information on the campaign, visit

JESSE ROMAN is associate editor for NFPA Journal. Top photograph: Getty Images