Although many regional factors, such as climate, poverty, education and demographics, affect fire issues in the United States, one of the most useful ways to compare fire fatalities across groups of people is to look at their relative risk of dying in a fire.
What is relative risk? show answer + hide answer -
Relative risk compares the per capita rate of a particular group to the overall per capita rate (for example, the U.S. general population). The relative risk of the overall U.S. population is always set at 1. Here are two examples that show how relative risk is used to compare fire fatalities:
What does per capita mean? show answer + hide answer -
To account for population differences, per capita rates are used. Per capita rates use a common population size, which then permits comparisons between different groups. Per capita rates are determined by the number of deaths or injuries occurring to a specific population group divided by the total population for that group. This ratio is then multiplied by a common population size.
For the purposes of this analysis, per capita rates for fire deaths are measured per 1 million persons. For example, the 2017 per capita fire death rate for the total older adult (ages 65 and over) population is computed from the total number of older adult fire deaths (1,444) divided by the total older adult population (50,793,923) multiplied by 1,000,000 persons. This rate is equivalent to 28.4 deaths per 1 million population.
How are fire death rate trends determined? show answer + hide answer -
Fire death rates are measured by deaths per million population. Trends are computed to show how the rates have changed over time by smoothing fluctuations or variations in data from year-to-year.
The overall 10-year fire death rate trend decreased 6% from 2008 to 2017. The table and chart below show the decline in the fire death rate trend.
|Year||Number of Fire Deaths||Population||Fire Death Rate (per million population)|
|10-Year Trend (%)||-5.5%|
Note: The computation of the trend is based on the simple linear regression method of least squares.
This page presents a snapshot of fire losses by state reported through the National Fire Incident Reporting System in 2017. Also included is information about fire departments and firefighter and home fire fatalities in 2019.
Overall, people living in 23 states and the District of Columbia had a higher risk of dying in a fire in 2017 than the U.S. general population. West Virginia with a relative risk of 2.6, lead the group followed by Alaska (2.4) and Arkansas (2.1). People living in New Jersey were 60% less likely to die in a fire than the general population.
* Indicates states where relative risk was not computed due to very small numbers of fire deaths (fewer than 10 deaths).
|State of Occurrence||Relative Risk|
|District of Columbia**||1.7|
|State of Occurrence||Fire Deaths||Fire Death Rate||Relative Risk|
|District of Columbia**||13||18.7||1.7|
The overall trend in the fire death rate of children ages 0 to 14 decreased 27% during 2008-2017 and the relative risk of dying in a fire was less than that of the general population. In 2017, the relative risk of dying in a fire for children ages 14 and under was 50% less than that of the general population.
|Year||Number of Fire Deaths Ages 0 to 14||Population||Fire Death Rate (per million population)||Relative Risk|
|10-Year Trend (%)||-26.7%|
Although the relative risk of dying in a fire in 2017 for children under the age of 5 was lower than the overall U.S. population, children ages 0 to 4 had the highest fire death rates compared to children of all ages and, as a result, had a higher relative risk of dying in a fire compared to older children.
The fire death rate trend for young children decreased 42% over the 10-year period of 2008-2017. Prior to 2006, the fire death rate for young children was slightly higher than the general population. From 2008 to 2017, the fire death rates of children ages 4 and younger were less than or the same as the general population. This decline may be attributed, in part, to an increase in public fire education and prevention efforts. For 2017, the relative risk of dying in a fire for the youngest children was 40% lower than that of the general population — the lowest relative risk for this age group over the ten-year period.
|Year||Number of Fire Deaths Ages 0 to 4||Population||Fire Death Rate (per million population)||Relative Risk|
|10-Year Trend (%)||-42.3%|
The fire death rate trend for children ages 5 to 9 decreased 10% over the 10-year period. In 2017, the relative risk of dying in a fire for this group was 50% less than that of the general population.
|Year||Number of Fire Deaths Ages 5 to 9||Population||Fire Death Rate (per million population)||Relative Risk|
|10-Year Trend (%)||-10.0%|
Children ages 10 to 14 had the lowest relative risk of dying in a fire compared to children of all ages. This group’s relative risk of dying in a fire was 70% less than the general population. From 2008 to 2017, the fire death rate trend increased 4% for children in this age group.
|Year||Number of Fire Deaths Ages 10 to 14||Population||Fire Death Rate (per million population)||Relative Risk|
|10-Year Trend (%)||+3.8%|
The fire death rate trend for older adults (ages 65 and older) decreased 11% from 2008-2017. Although the trend in fire death rates has decreased for the older adult population, older adults face the greatest relative risk of dying in a fire. In 2017, older adults had a 2.5 times greater risk of dying in a fire than the population as a whole.
|Year||Number of Fire Deaths Ages 65 and Over||Population||Fire Death Rate (per million population)||Relative Risk|
|10-Year Trend (%)||-10.6%|
The trend in fire death rate for older adults ages 65 to 74 decreased 1% over the 10-year period. This group had 2.1 times the risk of dying in a fire than the general population in 2017.
|Year||Number of Fire Deaths Ages 65 to 74||Population||Fire Death Rate (per million population)||Relative Risk|
|10-Year Trend (%)||-1.0%|
The fire death rate trend for older adults ages 75 to 84 decreased 7% over the 10-year period. In 2017, individuals in this age group were 2.9 times more likely to die in a fire than the general population.
|Year||Number of Fire Deaths Age 75-84||Population||Fire Death Rate (per million population)||Relative Risk|
|10-Year Trend (%)||-6.7%|
Adults ages 85 and older saw the largest decrease in fire death rate trends from 2008 to 2017, with a decline of 24%. Unfortunately, this group had the highest relative risk of dying in a fire. In 2017, adults ages 85 and over were 3.8 times more likely to die in a fire than the total population.
|Year||Number of Fire Deaths Ages 85 and Older||Population||Fire Death Rate (per million population)||Relative Risk|
|10-Year Trend (%)||-24.1%|