Every 25 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the United States. The overall number of reported fires has gone down drastically in the past few decades, and the year 2013 saw the lowest number since the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) began conducting a national fire loss survey in 1977.

The NFPA recently published its annual report of fire loss in the United States, which contains the overall statistics on fires, property damage, death, and injuries from the NFPA’s survey of 2,637 fire departments across the country. This 56-page statistics-heavy document is dense and may be hard to digest, so here’s what you need to know:

  • Fire departments responded to 1,240,000 reported fires during 2013. That’s down 9.8% from 2012, and is the lowest number of reported fires since the NFPA began doing the survey in 1977.
  • Of the 1.24 million reported fires, 487,500 of those were structural fires, which are the most costly in terms of life and property loss. The number of structural fires has not been decreasing as steadily since the 1970s as vehicular and outside fires, indicating that structural fire safety is still problematic in the U.S.
  • Most of the reported structural fires (79.4%) were in residential buildings, including apartment complexes and one- and two-family homes.
  • The number of highway vehicular fires in 2013 was 164,000, a 4.9% decrease from the previous years.

Despite the overall decrease in reported fires, the number of civilian fire deaths increased 13.5% from 2012—the report estimated 3,240 deaths. But, according to the NFPA report, that number can be deceiving, and death rates can “vary considerably from year to year…particularly for smaller communities, and caution is urged when considering the 2013 increase.” Most of the increase in deaths is due to a rise in death rates in communities with smaller populations, particularly those with fewer than 2,500 residents. Overall, the U.S. has seen a 53% decrease in home fire deaths since 1977.

As for property loss, that number has also been going down. Last year saw $11.5 billion in property damage. That’s a 73% decrease from 2012. The average loss per fire was $19,541, a 4% decrease from the previous year. Technically the average loss per fire has increased 420% since 1977, but when adjusting for inflation, it’s only a 35% increase.

So, how do we keep all these numbers decreasing? The NFPA has a few recommendations:

  • Continue to spread public fire safety knowledge.
  • Educate people on the common causes of home fires (which accounted for 85% of fire fatalities).
  • Encourage residents to install and maintain smoke detectors.
  • Pursue a wider use of residential fire sprinklers.
  • Seek new ways to make home products fire-safe, like child-resistant lighters, and furniture that is resistant to cigarette ignition.