How Likely Is a House Fire

September 8, 2015

Even after working here at Texas ReConstruction for 6 months, I do not personally know a single person that has had their home burned down entirely.  I see minor fires in homes that do partial damge.  One person was smoking and had a small fire in his room and another relative had a kitchen fire.  In both cases the damage wasn't very significant.  However, as a company, Texas ReConstruction sees the affects of fires in homes daily. 


According to FEMA U.S. Fire Administration


•In 2010 there were 362,100 residential fires in the USA.    


•In total the fires caused $6.65 billion in damages.


•According to the Census there are 131 million housing units in the US and 114 million households.


•This equeates to 0.317% of households experienced a fire in 2010.   Or we could say that 0.276% of housing units had a fire in the year.


•With 362,100 fires and $6.65 billion in damages that means the average property damage from a fire was $18,365.


Clearly damages of $18,365 would not indicate the average fire causes the home to be destroyed or "burned to the ground".    Most of the fires are more more minor in nature and likely include many kitchen fires which result in smoke damage and minor structural damage.    Of course $18k is a large bill and most people can't afford that, but its much better than having to replace an entire home.


I could guesstimate the portion of homes that are actually burned to the ground even though in the Dallas and Fort Worth area, home values and insurance laws are different than the rest of the countyr.  Replacing a home costs $150,000 on average.  With $6.65 billion in damages and assuming that $150,000 replacement cost then the maximum number of homes that could be burned down totally would be about 44,333.   This is just a guess of course.   But I think it is reasonable to assume that only 10-20% of the homes that have a fire are totally ruined to the point of needing complete rebuilding.  In Tarrant and Dallas county, more could be done to track the frequency and costs of fire damage. 


 If one in 10 fires results in a destroyed home then 0.03% of individual homes are destroyed by fire in a year.  That would mean that the chances of having a home burned down would be approximately 1 in 3000 ballpark.


Another way to look at the cost of fires is the average cost from fires per year per household.   Since theres $6.65 billion in damages if you average the cost over all the 114 million households the average cost per household is just $58.33.   If you're deciding if insurance is worth while then this is the figure I'd use compared to an average cost home.  If the average home costs about $170,000 then we're talking roughly 34¢ per $1000.   In other words a $200,000 home would have likely fire damage of 34 x 200 = $68.   I would estimate the fire insurance costs at roughly 34¢ per $1000 home value.    Keep in mind this is really just a ballpark estimate.  Insurance costs vary greatly from state to state based on local costs and varying likelihood of damages. And Fort Worth and Dallas have more areas of above average home prices, values and taxes. 


Of course the risks will vary based on several factors like age of the house, whether or not you smoke, how much you cook in the kitchen, etc.   The amount of property damage caused by a fire will be proportional to the value of the house as well.   It costs a lot more to replace a fancy kitchen in a  large house then to fix a few cabinets in a squalid apartment.  


So at Texas ReConstruction, we are looking at ways homeowners can limit exposure to risk of fire damage. But first we need to look at what causes home fires?


FEMA's US Fire Administration site also has data on the causes of fires.   Here are the causes of residential fires ranked by %.



Cooking                46%

Heating                13%

Electrical Malfunction     7%

Other Unintentional, Careless    7%

Open Flame       5%

Intentional          4%

Equipment Malfunction                4%

Other Heat         4%

Appliances          2%

Smoking               2%

Exposure             2%

Natural 2%

Other Equipment             1%

Investigation with Arson Module              1%

Playing with Heat Source              1%


Looking through that list, there are not a lot of causes that you can easily avoid.  Not smoking and not intentionally burning down your own home only accounts for about 6% of the fires.



Cooking is by far the #1 cause of fires in the home.   That makes sense.   Who doesn't know of someone who's had a kitchen fire and probably had something on their stove catch flame once or twice?   Ok maybe I'm not a very good cook, but I think fires in the kitchen are not very uncommon and they can certainly turn into major fires. Part of TRC's advantage is that we understand that and have developed our own custom cabinet shop. This helps to create a better end product for our customers. 


Notice that smoking is the cause for just 2% of fires.   I would have guessed that number would be higher but only around 20-25% of adults smoke in the US.


Take this for what you will. There are many ways to keep your home safe from fire. It only takes one bad mistake to turn your life completely upside down. 

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