Income, housing, and fire injuries: a census tract analysis

Public Health Rep. 2006 Mar-Apr;121(2):149-54. doi: 10.1177/003335490612100208.


Objectives: This study investigates the social and demographic correlates of nonfatal structural fire injury rates for the civilian population for Philadelphia census tracts during 1993-2001.

Methods: The author analyzed 1,563 fire injuries by census tract using the 1990 census (STF 3) and unpublished data from the Office of the Fire Marshal of the Philadelphia Fire Department. Injury rates were calculated per 1,000 residents of a given census tract. Multiple regression was used to determine significant variables in predicting fire injuries in a given census tract over a nine-year period and interaction effects between two of these variables-age of housing and income.

Results: Multiple regression analysis indicates that older housing (prior to 1940), low income, the prevalence of vacant houses, and the ability to speak English have significant independent effects on fire injury rates in Philadelphia. In addition, the results show a significant interaction between older housing and low income.

Conclusions: Given the finding of very high rates of fire injuries in census tracts that are both low income and have older housing, fire prevention units can take preventative measures. Fire protection devices, especially smoke alarms, should be distributed in the neighborhoods most at risk. Multiple occupancy dwellings should have sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers. Laws concerning the maintenance of older rental housing need to be strictly enforced. Vacant houses should be effectively boarded up or renovated for residential use. Fire prevention material should be distributed in a number of languages to meet local needs.

MeSH terms

  • Burns / epidemiology
  • Fires / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data*
  • Language
  • Philadelphia / epidemiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*