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Data Snapshot: Nursing Home Fires (2012-2014)

For each year from 2012 to 2014, an estimated 5,700 medical facility fires were reported to fire departments in the United States. Nearly half of those, 2,700 fires, were in nursing homes. It is estimated that these fires caused fewer than five deaths, 125 injuries and $13 million in property loss per year. 1

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Loss measures for nursing homes and all other medical facility fires (three-year average, 2012-2014)

The average number of fatalities per 1,000 nursing home fires was only slightly lower than the same measure for all other medical facility fires. The number of injuries, however, was more than double that of other medical facilities. 2

Loss measureNursing home firesAll other medical facility fires
Fatalities/1,000 fires
Injuries/1,000 fires
Dollar loss/fire
Source: National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) 5.0.

Nursing home fires by incident type (2012-2014)

The majority of nursing home fires are fires that are confined to cooking pots (66 percent). Confined fires are smaller fires that rarely result in death, serious injury or large content losses. 3 Fires in trash bins, incinerators or compactors composed 5 percent of confined fires, while fuel burner or chimney fires accounted for 3 percent.

Nonconfined fires, generally larger structure fires, made up 26 percent of nursing home fires. Source: NFIRS 5.0.

Leading confined fire types

  • Cooking vessel: 66.0%
  • Trash, incinerator or compactor: 5.2%
  • Fuel burner or chimney: 2.8%

Nursing home fires by time of alarm (2012-2014)

Nursing home fires occurred most frequently during the morning as well as the late afternoon and early evening hours. The fires peaked between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m. These periods of high fire incidence coincide with morning and evening meal preparations. Source: NFIRS 5.0.

Note: Total does not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.

Causes of nursing home fires (2012-2014)

The leading causes of all nursing home fires were:

  • Cooking (72 percent)
  • Appliances (7 percent)
  • Heating (5 percent)
  • Electrical malfunction (4 percent)

Source: NFIRS 5.0.

Note: Unknown causes are apportioned.

While cooking was the leading reported cause of nursing home fires overall, it only accounted for 9 percent of all nonconfined nursing home fires. Nonconfined fires are larger, more serious fires.

The leading causes of nonconfined fires were:

  • Appliances (28 percent)
  • Electrical malfunction (16 percent)
  • Heating (9 percent)
  • Cooking (9 percent)

Extent of fire spread in nursing home fires (2012-2014)

Eighty-three percent of all nursing home fires were limited to the object of origin. Only 3 percent extended beyond the room of origin. Source: NFIRS 5.0.

Limited to object of origin 83.3%
Limited to room of origin 14.1%
Limited to building of origin 1.9%
Limited to floor of origin 0.7%
Beyond building of origin 0.1%

83.3% Limited to object of origin

14.1% Limited to room of origin

1.9% Limited to building of origin

0.7% Limited to floor of origin

0.1% Beyond building of origin

Note: Total does not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.

For more information on nursing homes, including fire safety inspections and quality of care data, please visit: Medicare.gov.

Sources: NFIRS 5.0 and the National Fire Protection Association.


  1. Medical facilities are defined by Property Use codes 311-343. Nursing homes are defined by Property Use code 311. Fires are defined as a subset of nonresidential building fires in NFIRS by using Incident Types 111-123 (excluding Incident Type 112). For Incident Types 113-118, the structure type is 1, 2 or null, and for Incident Types 111 and 120-123, the structure type is 1 or 2. Aid Types 3 (mutual aid given) and 4 (automatic aid given) were excluded to avoid double counting of incidents. Estimates of fires are rounded to the nearest 100, deaths to the nearest five, injuries to the nearest 25, and dollar loss to the nearest million dollars.
  2. The average loss measures computed from the NFIRS data alone in the table differ from the average loss measures computed from national estimates. Average loss for fatalities and injuries is computed per 1,000 fires. Average dollar loss is computed per fire and rounded to the nearest $10. The 2012 and 2013 dollar-loss values were adjusted to 2014 dollars.
  3. In NFIRS, confined fires are defined by Incident Types 113 to 118.