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Residential Building Fire Dollar-Loss Causes (2012‑2021)

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National estimates

The 2021 national estimates for the leading causes of residential building fire dollar loss show that there was:

  • $1,943,300,000 loss from other unintentional, careless fires.
  • $1,201,500,000 loss from electrical malfunction fires.
  • $701,800,000 loss from open-flame fires.

Overall trends

Overall trends in the leading fire dollar loss* causes for the 10-year period of 2012 to 2021 show the following:

  • Other unintentional, careless was the leading cause of residential fire dollar loss for the 10-year period.
  • A 58% increase in residential other unintentionally or carelessly set fire dollar loss.
    In 2018, there were 33 incidents with a reported dollar loss of $1,000,000 or more, 30 in 2019, 24 in 2020 and 42 in 2021. These incidents may have contributed to the continued increase in fire dollar loss. The 2021 high-dollar loss fires included a $20,000,000 large residential fire in Palo Alto, California.
  • A 27% increase in residential electrical malfunction fire dollar loss.
    In 2018 there were 32 incidents with a reported dollar loss of $1,000,000 or more, 14 in 2019, 13 in 2020 and 23 in 2021.These incidents may have contributed to the continued increase in fire dollar loss. The 2019 high-dollar-loss fires included a $26,400,000 hotel fire in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • A 5% increase in residential open-flame fire dollar loss.
  • An $80,000,000 under-construction apartment and hotel complex fire in St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to the peak in the 2020 residential intentionally set fire dollar loss.
  • The spike in the 2016 residential exposure fire dollar loss is attributed in part to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, wildfires.
*This overall constant dollar-loss trend takes inflation into account by adjusting each year's dollar loss to its equivalent 2021 value.

Leading causes of residential building fire dollar loss (2012-2021)

(in $millions *)
Other unintentional, careless1321.01210.81256.91421.71324.31527.41705.51665.01754.51943.3
Electrical malfunction961.21075.21063.81085.21024.11169.41324.51280.71189.31201.5
Open flame745.3653.6704.2704.2600.7700.0780.7684.0760.4701.8
Other heat687.1516.1536.7758.6452.8578.3681.9555.9703.5662.5
Cause under investigation430.4508.5411.9448.8499.6507.0518.1476.6447.9531.0