Fire fatality and alcohol intake: analysis of key risk factors

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2011 Sep;72(5):731-6. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2011.72.731.


Objective: After a brief review of the literature on the role of alcohol in residential fire deaths, a comparison of different risk factors for residential fire fatality was undertaken by closely analyzing the circumstances of fire victims as a function of alcohol intake.

Method: Analyses were based on Australian coroners' fire fatality records for the state of Victoria (1998-2006) and considered demographic, behavioral, and environmental factors for the 95 adult fire victims who were tested for alcohol (64 male, 31 female).

Results: Most (58%) had a positive blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test, with 31% of the total sample having a BAC of more than 0.20 gm per 100 ml. Odds ratio analyses showed that four variables were significantly more associated with victims who had consumed alcohol compared with sober victims. In descending odds ratio order, these variables were as follows: (a) being aged 18-60 years, (b) involving smoking materials (e.g. cigarettes, pipes), (c) having no conditions preventing escape, and (d) being male. An important new finding is that fire fatalities with positive BAC levels were more than three times less likely to have their clothing alight or exits blocked than sober fire victims.

Conclusions: The risk of dying in a fire for alcohol-affected people who are capable of being alerted and escaping may be reduced if they can be alerted more quickly and effectively. Suitable measures for improving smoke alarms via interlinking and the use of an alarm signal demonstrated to be more effective at waking sleepers, including those who are alcohol affected, are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home / mortality*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology
  • Arousal
  • Escape Reaction
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Fires* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Victoria / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol