Data snapshot: Thanksgiving fires in residential buildings (2014-2016)

For each year from 2014 to 2016, an estimated 2,400 residential building fires were reported to fire departments in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day and caused an estimated 5 deaths, 25 injuries and $19 million in property loss.1

In most cases, patterns of fires on Thanksgiving Day differ substantially from the national fire profile. To prevent fires and associated loss on this particular holiday, it is important to be aware of how fires differ from the overall fire profile in the United States.

Loss measures for Thanksgiving Day and non-Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings (three-year average, 2014-2016)

The average number of reported residential building fires on Thanksgiving Day was more than double (2.3 times more) the average number of fires in residential buildings on all days. The average losses for Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings, however, were less than the same measures for non-Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings. 2

Loss measureThanksgiving Day firesNon-Thanksgiving Day fires
Fatalities/1,000 fires
1.85.8
Injuries/1,000 fires
11.025.7
Dollar loss/fire
$7,800$17,560
Source: National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) 5.0.

Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings by general property type (2014-2016)

The majority of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings took place in one- and two-family dwellings (63 percent) followed by multifamily dwellings (32 percent). Source: NFIRS 5.0.

This is comparable to non-Thanksgiving Day residential building fires, with one- and two-family dwellings at 64 percent, multifamily dwellings at 29 percent, and other dwellings at 7 percent.

Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings by time of alarm (2014-2016)

Almost half (48 percent) of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings occurred from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when many people were most likely preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Fires then declined throughout the evening. This stands in contrast to the rest of the year, when residential building fires peaked during “normal” dinner time hours of 5-8 p.m. Source: NFIRS 5.0.

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

Extent of fire spread in Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings (2014-2016)

In 77 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings, the fire was limited to the object of origin. An additional 11 percent of these fires were limited to the room of origin. The remaining 12 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings extended beyond the room of origin. Source: NFIRS 5.0.

Limited to object of origin 77.2%
Limited to room of origin 10.8%
Limited to building of origin 8.1%
Limited to floor of origin 2.8%
Beyond building of origin 1.1%

77.2% Limited to object of origin

10.8% Limited to room of origin

8.1% Limited to building of origin

2.8% Limited to floor of origin

1.1% Beyond building of origin

Annually among all other residential building fires, 55 percent were limited to the object of origin, an additional 20 percent were limited to the room of origin, and the remaining 25 percent extended beyond the room of origin.

What causes most Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings?

Cooking fires in residential buildings occurred more often on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year. Cooking was, by far, the leading cause of all Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings at 77 percent. Source: NFIRS 5.0.

Note: Percent of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings with sufficient data to determine cause.

By comparison, cooking was the cause of 50 percent of residential building fires that occurred on all days of the year other than Thanksgiving. Heating, at 7 percent, was the next leading cause of Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings.

Sources: NFIRS and the National Fire Protection Association.

Notes:

  1. Thanksgiving Day fires are defined as fires that occurred on Nov. 27, 2014, Nov. 26, 2015, and Nov. 24, 2016. Estimates of fires are rounded to the nearest 100, deaths to the nearest five, injuries to the nearest 25, and losses to the nearest million.
  2. The average loss measures computed from the NFIRS data alone in the loss measures table will 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 2014 and 2015 dollar-loss values were adjusted to 2016 dollars.

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