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Identifying vulnerable populations to death and injuries from residential fires.

Stanley W Gilbert, David T Butry (BMJ Journal)

Articles

Stats & Facts

Objective This study proposes and evaluates the theory that people who are susceptible to injury in residential fires are not susceptible to death in residential fires and vice versa. It is proposed that the population vulnerable to death in residential fires can be proxied by ‘frailty’, which is measured as age–gender adjusted fatality rates due to natural causes.

Methods This study uses an ecological approach and controls for exposure to estimate the vulnerability of different population groups to death and injury in residential fires. It allows fatalities and injuries to be estimated by different models.

Results Frailty explains fire-related death in adults while not explaining injuries, which is consistent with the idea that deaths and injuries affect disjoint populations.

Conclusions Deaths and injuries in fire are drawn from different populations. People who are susceptible to dying in fires are unlikely to be injured in fires, and the people who are susceptible to injury are unlikely to die in fires.

Between 2009 and 2013, 2470 people per year lost their lives in home structure fires (‘home fires’), and an additional 13 300 were injured, on average.4 Home fires represented 27% of all reported fires, yet constituted 84% and 77% of all fire fatalities and injuries, respectively. In an analysis of home fires (2009–2013) based on national fire statistics, cooking equipment is cited as the most common cause of home fires (45%), followed by heating equipment (16%), intentional (8%), electrical distribution or lighting equipment (8%) and smoking materials (5%).5 Causes of deaths from residential fires follow a different pattern. Smoking materials are shown to be the leading cause of civilian fire deaths (23%), followed by heating equipment (19%), cooking equipment (17%), electrical distribution or lighting equipment (15%) and intentional (14%). The leading area of fire origin that resulted in an injury is shown to also be the most common area of fire origin (kitchen or cooking area), but the leading area of fire origin that resulted in a death differed (living room, family room or den).

Read the rest of the study here.

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