US Fire Administration

Residential building electrical fires


Courtesy of US Fire Administration

Electricity is a basic part of residential life in the United States. It provides the energy for most powered items in a contemporary home, from lights to heating systems to televisions. Today it is hard to imagine a residence without electricity. It is a part of our homes and our activities that most of us take for granted. We rarely think how powerful electricity is. Yet, using electricity can have dangerous consequences. Electrical fires are pervasive throughout the United States, causing injury, claiming lives, and resulting in large losses of property.

Faulty electrical systems cause many fires. Even more electrical fires result from inappropriate wiring installations, overloaded circuits, and extension cords. Based on the latest available data for 2003 to 2005, an estimated 28,300 residential building electrical fires occur annually and cause 360 deaths, 1,000 injuries, and losses of $995 million.1,2,3 Electrical fires accounted for 7% of all residential building fires in this 3-year period.

Fire Rates Attributed to Residential Electrical Building Fires

Electrical fires in residential buildings result in more damage and higher death rates per 1,000 fires on average than nonelectrical residential fires (Table 1). Dollar loss per fire for residential building electrical fires is more than double that for nonelectrical residential building fires; deaths per 1,000 fires is about 70% higher for residential building electrical fires. The injury rates resulting from residential building electrical and nonelectrical fires, however, are roughly the same, at 28 to 29 injuries per 1,000 fires.

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