National Fire Protection Association LogoFire departments across the United States responded to almost 1.3 million fires in 2014, resulting in 3,275 civilian deaths and $11.6 billion in property damage. The number of total fires was 4.7 percent higher than the previous year, according to the report recently published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)—but was also the second lowest it’s been since 1977, when the organization began using the current method of gathering data.

The NFPA collects fire damage data to release in reports every year, which provides a backdrop for fire protection engineers and other industry stakeholders when it comes to examining the current state of fire protection in the U.S. and what improvements can still be made.

So let’s look at some figures:

  • 1,298,000 – number of fires responded to by fire departments (a 4.7 percent increase from the previous year)
  • 494,000 – number of fires that occurred in structures (a 1.3 percent increase)
  • 107,500 – number of nonresidential structural fires (a 6.5 percent increase)
  • 19,000 – estimated number of fires intentionally set (a 15.6 percent decrease)
  • 3,725 – number of civilian deaths (a 1.1 percent increase, and the highest the number has been since 2008)
  • 15,7745 – number of civilian fire injuries (a 0.9 percent decrease)
  • 24 – number of catastrophic multiple-death fires

Catastrophic multiple-death fires are defined as fires or explosions in homes that result in five or more fire-related deaths, or fires or explosions in other structures or outside that result in three or more deaths. Those 24 catastrophic multiple-death fires in 2014 killed 128 people, compared to the 128 in 2013 that claimed 120 lives. 

Five of those catastrophic multiple-death fires were in nonresidential structures (compared to 21 in the previous year), resulting in 20 fatalities (down from 31 in 2013).

An important element of this data is the discussion of suppression equipment and smoke detection. According to the NFPA’s report, suppression equipment was reportedly present in only two of the 20 catastrophic multiple-death fires. The presence of a sprinkler system decreases the risk of dying in a home fire by about 80 percent, and the average property damage loss is reduced by 71 percent per fire. Smoke detectors have also proven effective in decreasing death and property damage, but they are effective only when they’re tested and maintained regularly, and when occupants leave the building immediately when they sound the alarm.

Here are just a few reminders when it comes to proactive fire protection: