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NFIRSGram: calculating fire loss

This NFIRSGram explains how to calculate fire loss to accurately document a fire incident in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).

Definition of fire loss

NFIRS requests that fire departments calculate their losses due to fire, but what is fire loss?

Fire loss is an estimation of the total loss to the structure and contents in terms of replacement in like kind and quantity. This estimation of fire loss includes contents damaged by fire, smoke, water and overhaul. It does not include indirect loss, such as business interruption.

The pre-incident values are an estimation of the replacement cost of the structure and contents.

Purpose for collecting property and content losses

Collecting property and content losses helps define the magnitude of the fire problem, provides an additional indicator of the incident severity, and can be used to evaluate the progress made in fire protection. This information can help local communities, states and the country determine the amount of money that should be spent on fire protection.

Estimated property and content losses are also crucial for identifying types of situations where high monetary losses are common. This information can help target fire prevention programs and be used to evaluate the cost effectiveness of firefighting equipment and fire protection practices. Pre-incident values help delimit the magnitude of the potential fire problem by providing a basis for comparison.

USFA recommends the use of the ICC’s BVD formula to help fire departments determine dollar loss on fires. The BVD provides the “average” construction costs per square foot, which can help determine the estimated value of a building by using this formula:

total square footage x square foot construction cost

For instance, a 1,200 square foot home that is totally destroyed would return an estimated value of 1,200 x $133.78 (the standard cost per square foot for a typical one- or two-family home) = $160,536.

You can download the most recent version of the BVD formula from the ICC’s website .

Clicking “None” versus leaving the fields blank

When a value is not known, it is preferable to leave the fields blank. Clicking the “None” box means that there was no loss at all, whereas leaving the fields blank means that you do not know the value of the loss.

Documenting fire loss

When a fire occurs, enter the best estimate of the loss for the property and any contents, as well as the estimated pre-incident values. Monetary losses should be estimated as accurately as possible, though it is understood that estimates may in fact be rough approximations based upon current values in your jurisdiction.

When entering these values, only use whole dollar amounts; do not include cents. If a better estimate becomes available after the report has been submitted, then the original report should be edited, and the reason for the edit should be noted in the remarks section.

If a loss on an adjacent property is encountered but not documented on an exposure fire report, then this loss should be documented in the remarks section of the original incident report.

Example: completing the estimated dollar losses and values field

nfirs dollar loss field

In the example above, the estimated dollar loss was $3,450, the estimated pre-incident value was $7,500, and no contents were lost during this fire.

Sample coding scenarios

Scenario 1

  • A fire department is dispatched to a reported building fire. Upon arrival, the fire department discovers that a garage attached to a house is on fire.
  • The fire department is able to contain the fire to the garage, and the attached house suffers some water and smoke damage to the living areas.
  • The fire department calculates that the fire caused an estimated $50,000 in damage to the structure, as well as an additional $10,000 in water and smoke damage to the attached house.
  • Using the BVD formula, the fire department determines that the total square footage of the house and attached garage is 1,900 square feet.
  • 1,900 is multiplied by the square foot construction cost for the building type. In this case, we will use a construction cost of $133.78 (the standard cost for a typical one- or two-family home).
  • This results in a total estimated value of $254,182 for the residence.
  • The department enters an estimated value of $50,000 in the property loss field and $10,000 in the contents loss field.
  • The department then enters $254,182 in the pre-incident value field for property.

Scenario 2

  • A fire department is dispatched to a reported building fire. Upon arrival, the fire department discovers a single-story, single-family home on fire with a neighboring family‚Äôs home already beginning to exhibit signs of heat damage, as the vinyl siding is beginning to melt.
  • The fire department is able to protect the neighboring home, and all the damage that it suffers is the melted siding on the side that faced the fire building.
  • The fire department calculates that the fire caused an estimated $50,000 in damage to the structure, as well as an additional $10,000 in water and smoke damage to the home on fire, and the neighboring home received an estimated $3,000 in damage to the melted vinyl siding.
  • Using the BVD formula, the fire department determines that the total square footage of the home on fire is 1,900 square feet.
  • 1,900 is multiplied by the square foot construction cost for the building type. In this case, we will use a construction cost of $133.78 (the standard cost for a typical one- or two-family home). This results in a total estimated value of $254,182 for the residence.
  • This same calculation is also performed for the neighboring home that suffered the melted siding, with an estimated value of $150,500.
  • The department enters an estimated value of $50,000 in the property loss field and $10,000 in the contents loss field.
  • The department then enters $254,182 in the pre-incident value field for property.
  • To document the losses encountered on the neighboring home, the fire department notes these in the remarks section of the fire report, entering a statement detailing the loss, its location to the fire, and any protective measures taken to protect the structure from further loss.