One of the best ways to prevent a fire from occurring is to know and understand the facts relating to the outbreak of fires, including the dangers and subsequent outcomes and their most common causes. Although not the most pleasant reading material, fire facts are crucial in order to reduce the number of fires and the devastation they can cause.

So, in order to get everyone as clued up on fire safety as possible, the experts at Elite Fire have compiled a list of top fire safety facts, all sourced from national statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government. These facts are designed to enhance your knowledge and understanding of fire, helping you protect your home or commercial property – and, more importantly, everyone within it – from the threat of fire as far as possible.

Types of Fire

  • From 2011 – 2012, local authority and rescue services attended 584,500 fires or false alarms in Britain. This figure was 7% lower than from 2010 – 2011.
  • 272,100 of these call-outs were for real fires, whilst 312,000 were false alarms.
  • There were 71,000 building fires, 193,000 outdoor fires and 8,000 chimney fires.
  • Of the 71,000 fires in buildings, 62% took place in private dwellings (44,300).

Causes of Fire

These statistics all concern ‘primary fires’ which are fires in buildings, vehicles and outdoor structures, or any fire involving casualties, rescues or fires attended by five or more fire engines.

  • There were 72,400 accidental primary fires from 2011 – 2012.
  • Of these, 37,600 occurred in dwellings (52%), 16,800 in other buildings (23%) and 14,000 in road vehicles (19%).
  • On the other hand, there were 32,500 deliberate primary fires from 2011 – 2012.
  • 5,900 of these occurred in dwellings (18%), 7,300 occurred in other buildings (22%) and 14,000 in road vehicles (43%).

Fire Fatalities

  • From 2011 – 2012 there were 380 fire-related fatalities in Britain, down by 24 from 404 in 2010 – 2011.
  • The majority of fire-related fatalities (76%) occur in dwelling fires – 287 people lost their lives in fires in their own home that year.

The main causes of fire fatalities are:


  • 34% (130 people) died from being overcome by gas, smoke or toxic fumes
  • 25% (94 people) died from suffering severe burns
  • 19% (74 people) died from a combination of burns and gas, smoke or toxic fumes
  • 14% of deaths were unspecified and 8% of deaths were as a result of other causes

Fires in the Home

  • Dwelling fires account for nearly two thirds of all buildings fires and 88% of all casualties occur in building fires.
  • The main cause of fires in the home is the misuse of equipment or appliances, with 14.700 cases of this from 2011 – 2012.

The main sources of ignition are:

  • 52% cooking appliances
  • 4% space heating appliances
  • 10% electrical distribution
  • 13% all other electrical appliances
  • 12% other (mainly items such as matches, lighters and candles)
  • 7% smokers’ materials
  • 2% unspecified
  • 34% of dwelling fires took place in homes without a fire alarm present.

Fire Fatalities in the Home

  • Of the 287 fatalities in dwellings, 85% (244) were of accidental causes.
  • Smokers’ materials were the most frequent source of causing accidental dwelling fire fatalities, accounting for over a third of all deaths, and 84 people died solely due to careless handling of cigarettes.
  • Fires started in cooking appliances were responsible for 14% of all accidental dwelling fire fatalities – 33.
  • Space heating appliances caused 24 fatalities and electrical appliances caused 19.

Fires in Other Buildings

  • From 2011 – 2012 there were 24,100 fires in buildings other than dwellings.

Of these fires:

  • 26% were in private garages and sheds (6,200)
  • 15% were in retail distribution (3,700)
  • 12% were in industrial premises (2,900)
  • 10% were in restaurants, cafes and public houses (2,500)
  • 6% were in recreational and other cultural services (1,500)
  • 25 people died in fires in buildings other than dwellings in 2011 – 2012.
  • 70% of fires in other buildings were started accidentally – compared with 86% of those in dwellings.
  • The main cause for accidental fires in these buildings was faulty appliances and leads and this accounted for 24% of all accidental fires in other buildings.
  • Another key cause of accidental fires in other buildings was the misuse of equipment or appliances and there were 2,600 fires of this nature from 2011 – 2012.
  • 7,300 (30%) of fires in other buildings were deliberately ignited.

The main locations with a high percentage of deliberate fires were:

  • Private garages and sheds (48%)
  • Recreational and other cultural premises (40%)
  • Schools (32%)
  • 50% of fires in other buildings occurred in environments which did not have a fire alarm fitted.
  • These fires resulted in 21 fatalities and a further 502 casualties.

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