Release date: December 9, 1974
Release number: 74-084

Release Details

The purpose of the survey was to develop for the first time a statistically accurate estimate of the extent of the fire problem in American households. Of' the 5,575,000 personal property fires, 4,547,00 were started in the home and the remainder occurred in vacation homes, automobiles, boats and other buildings on private property.

The survey also revealed that 324,000 people were injured in fires during the year and of that number 141,000 were injured in residential fires. Property loss was estimated to be $1.5 billion involving 2.4 million fires. In 2.9 million incidents there were no losses reported.

The leading ignition source was found to be appliances in 3,474,000 cases, including gas stoves (360,000), electric stoves (855,000), and television sets (196,000). Food and grease were involved in 1,872,000 of the 3,474,000 appliance fires. The next most common ignition source was electrical wiring in 435,000 cases, of which 167,000 occurred in the home. Cigarettes started fires in 365,000 of the incidents, followed by matches in 248,000 cases.

The first items to ignite were food and grease in 1,874,000 cases and appliances in 1,242,000 cases. Fabric fires, including interior furnishings, bedding and clothing, ignited first in 628,000 incidents.

Included in the 285,000 interior furnishing fires were carpets and rugs (142,000), upholstered furniture (124,000) and drapes and curtains (19,000).

Bedding was involved in 115,000 fabric fires, including blanket and bedspreads (69,000) and mattresses (33,000). There were some 159,000 clothing fires and other fabric items constituted the remaining 69,000 fabric fires.

The survey was conducted by the Bureau of Census during the week of April 15, 1974 using 33,000 civilian households comprising about 100,000 persons. The respondents were asked to recall any fire which had been nonintentionally started on their personal property during the preceding year. Except for the number of people injured in fires, the survey excluded fires . in government buildings, office buildings, public places, and common areas such as apartment hallways. The resulting figures. were then extrapolated to reflect the extent of the household fire problem on a national scale.

Future fire injury statistics will be compiled by the new Fire Prevention and Control Administration, within the Department of Commerce, which will establish a National Fire Data Center.

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