What do we know about fire statistics in the UK?

Fire rescue services respond to tens of thousands of fire-related incidents in the UK every year. Many of these are home fires: between 2017 and 2018, firefighters in the UK responded to 37,740 emergency call-outs for domestic fire-related incidents.

Fire service response to home incidents: what do the statistics tell us?

From 2017 to 2018, England recorded 30,813 domestic fire incidents. That works out as 554 domestic fires per 1 million inhabitants.

Scotland registered 5,310 domestic fire incidents, coming to 979 fires per 1 million inhabitants.

In Wales, the fire rescue services were called out to 1,617 domestic fire incidents, meaning there were 517 home fires per 1 million inhabitants.

So, while England registered by far the most domestic fires in the 2017-2018 period, Scotland actually had the highest national average based on the size of its population.

The UK government also collected statistics on the most common causes of home fire incidents.

In the same 2017/2018 period:

  • Cooking appliances were responsible for 48.3% of home fire incidents
  • Other electrical devices accounted for 12.8%
  • Electrical distribution faults caused 11.9% of home fires in the UK
  • Materials used by smokers started 7% of fire-related incidents

Did you know that the majority of home fire deaths are actually caused by smoke inhalation, rather than the fires themselves? Over this 2017/2018 period, burns sustained in the fires caused just 25% of home fire incident fatalities.

Firefighters and fire and rescue services in the UK

As of 2018, there were 34,962 firefighters in the UK.

Fire and rescue authorities, or FRAs, oversee all fire and rescue services in the UK. FRAs are responsible for continually managing and improving the performance and governance of fire and rescue services.

The way that fire and rescue services are delivered has evolved significantly over time.

In recent years, there’s been a considerable push from UK fire and rescue authorities on emphasising fire incident prevention, rather than simply focussing on emergency response.

To that end, the Fire and Rescue Services Act introduced in 2004 implemented a statutory duty to promote fire safety.

UK fire and rescue service statistics for 2019

In the 12 months prior to September 2019, the UK fire and rescue services (FRSs) were called out to 163,039 fires. This figure was a 10% decrease on the previous year, in which FRSs responded to 182,013 fires.

Of those, 69,534 were primary fires (43% of the total fires attended by FRSs) and 75,558 were deliberate fires.

In general, fire-related incidents were down across almost all categories:

  • Primary fires: down 7%
  • Secondary fires: down 13%
  • Dwelling fires: down 7%
  • Road vehicle fires: down 6%
  • Other building fires: down 5%
  • Other outdoor fires: down 17%
  • Deliberate secondary fires: down 9%
  • Deliberate dwelling fires: down 9%
  • Deliberate other outdoor fires: down 9%
  • Deliberate road vehicle fires: down 4%
  • Deliberate other building fires: down <1%

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How can you increase fire safety levels in your home?

If a fire does start in your home, make sure you call the emergency services as soon as you possibly can.

Smoke and heat detectors

It’s a legal requirement for UK landlords to install smoke detectors throughout their domestic property.

For optimum fire safety, smoke detectors should be installed on the ceiling of landings or hallways in the home, as these are areas that would be used by residents in the event of an evacuation.

According to UK government statistics, cooking appliances were by far the number one cause of home fires between 2017 and 2018.

So, it’s important that you have fire safety systems set up around your home’s kitchen. It’s best to install heat detectors in order to monitor kitchen fire safety, as smoke detectors are likely to be triggered by cooking steam (they’re designed to pick up on other toxic and non-toxic fumes in the home, as well as smoke).

You might also want to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home for added safety. If you do choose to install them, make sure they’re around head height and positioned from 1 to 3 metres away from the potential source of carbon monoxide.

Fire extinguishers and fire blankets

To increase levels of fire safety in your home, it’s important to have devices on hand that will help you to put out a fire.

You might want to install a powder, water, foam or gas fire extinguisher in your home.

To remember how to use your fire extinguishers in the event of a fire-related incident in your home, just follow the PASS steps:

P: Pull out the pin on the top of the extinguisher to break through the tamper-proof protection

A: Aim the extinguisher down low, with its nozzle directed at the base of the fire you’re aiming to extinguish

S: Squeeze the handle of the extinguisher firmly to release the extinguishing substance

S: Sweep the nozzle from one side to the other, keeping it pointed at the base of the fire

Bear in mind that foam fire extinguishers can’t be used on electrical fires. As faulty electrical appliances and installations are a major cause of home fires, it’s wise to install a powder, water or gas model instead.

Fire hazards in the home

Statistics collected by the UK government show that home fires peak during the winter months (December, January and February). Home fires are most likely to occur in December, between 6pm and 8pm in the evening.

During the colder months of the year, many people turn up their heating and light stove and chimney fires to keep their home warm, leading to an increase in fire-related incidents.