Deaths and injuries from house fires

N Engl J Med. 2001 Jun 21;344(25):1911-6. doi: 10.1056/NEJM200106213442506.


Background: We sought to define the factors associated with house fires and related injuries by analyzing the data from population-based surveillance.

Methods: For 1991 through 1997, we linked the following data for Dallas: records from the fire department of all house fires (excluding fires in apartments and mobile homes), records of patients transported by ambulance, hospital admissions, and reports from the medical examiner of fatal injuries.

Results: There were 223 injuries (91 fatal and 132 nonfatal) from 7190 house fires, for a rate of 5.2 injured persons per 100,000 population per year. Rates of injury related to house fires were highest among blacks (relative risk, 2.8; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.1 to 3.6) and in people 65 years of age or older (relative risk, 2.6; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.9 to 3.5). Census tracts with low median incomes had the highest rates of injury related to house fires (relative risk as compared with census tracts with high median incomes, 8.1; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.5 to 32.0). The rate of injuries was higher for fires that began in bedrooms or living areas (relative risk, 3.7); that were started by heating equipment, smoking, or children playing with fire (relative risk, 2.6); or that occurred in houses built before 1980 (relative risk, 6.6). Injuries occurred more often in houses without functioning smoke detectors (relative risk, 1.5; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.0 to 2.4). The prevalence of functioning smoke detectors was lowest in houses in the census tracts with the lowest median incomes (P<0.001).

Conclusions: Rates of injuries related to house fires are highest in elderly, minority, and low-income populations and in houses without functioning smoke detectors. Efforts to prevent injuries and deaths from house fires should target these populations.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American
  • Burns / epidemiology*
  • Burns / etiology
  • Burns / mortality
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Fires / economics
  • Fires / statistics & numerical data*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Protective Devices / economics
  • Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk
  • Texas / epidemiology