Americans watch too much television. Television programs give people the wrong ideas on fires. You see people run into burning a building, past the flames to rescue the family pet, and run back out the hero. What people fail to realize is that fires are pitch black. A fire starts bright but quickly, usually less than 30 seconds, produces thick black smoke and complete darkness. In minutes your house will be filled with this smoke. The smoke is highly toxic and even a small amount inhaled can make you drowsy, disoriented and short of breath. A larger breath and you are dead! More people die of smoke inhalation than burns.
And speaking of burns, then there is the heat. It alone can kill you. On the floor it might be 100 degrees but at eye level 600 degrees. If you inhale this air, filled with smoke, your lungs will scorch. It is so hot that your clothes will melt to your skin. And this is at the start of a fire. In 5 minutes or less the room can get so hot that everything in it will ignite at once. This is what firefighters call flashover. But you will never see flashover; you will be dead long before this happens.
To the fire service; fire is the number one terrorist. It kills more than 5,000 American every year. It injuries more than 25,000. It kills more people than all natural disasters combined. Direct property damage usually exceeds $9 billion. And the sad part is that most of these losses can be prevented and education is the weapon of choice.
Listed below are the statistics on fires in the United States.
(Note: these facts were collected prior to 09/11/01)
- The United States has one of the highest fire death rates in the world, 14.9 deaths per million.
- Fire is the third leading cause of accidental death in the home.
- About 2 million fires are reported every year, and many unreported.
- Over 80% of fire deaths occur in the home.
- 22% of all fires are in the home.
- Children are 9% of the population but account for 17% of fire deaths.
- The people at the highest risk of dying in a fire are:
Children and adults 65 and older have twice the risk.
Adults 85 and older have four times the risk.
- Men die and are injured almost twice as often as women.
- Most fatal fires kill 1 or 2 people.
- Half of the fire deaths occur between the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., but only a quarter of the fires happen then.
- At only 1/5 of fires where people died where there working smoke detectors.
- Careless smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths, except in the months of December, January and February, then heating mishaps share the blame.
- Heating is the second leading cause of home fire deaths.
- Arson is both the third leading cause of home fires and home fire deaths. (In commercial properties it is the major cause of deaths, injuries and property loss.)
- Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries.
As you can see there are a lot of areas that need addressing. I hope I can educate the public on many of these issues.
For more information go to the Fire Department links page.