Fire Safety Statistics for the United Kingdom

For information on the latest fire statistics go to Fire Statistics at the Department of Communities and Local Government. The Fire Statistics Monitorprovides the latest quarterly figures and also provides previous quarters.

Fire statistics

Department of Communities and Local Government fire statistics provide a general purpose description of all fires and false alarms attended by UK fire brigades based on information collected from fire reports. Data collected about serious reportable fires includes:

  • Time and date of call
  • Brigade or other geographical area
  • Type of building or vehicle
  • Most likely motive (accidental or malicious)
  • Cause of fire (chip or fat pan fires, electrical, etc.)
  • Source of ignition (cigarettes, cookers, etc.)
  • Materials (furniture, etc.)
  • The spread of fire (beyond room of origin, etc.)
  • The nature of fire casualties
  • Rescue information and method of extinction
  • The effectiveness of automatic smoke detectors

This has been developed for brigade personnel, researchers from other government departments and other non-specialist users of fire statistics to access such data.

Fire Data

A reportable fire is an event of uncontrolled burning involving flames, heat or smoke attended by a UK fire brigade. Reportable fires are classified for data collection purposes by the Department of Communities and Local Government and by fire brigades into two main categories, the more serious primary fires for which data are collected about fires individually and secondary fires for which aggregate data are collected. Limited information about chimney fires is also collected.

Primary fires are generally more serious fires occurring in one or more of the following locations, buildings, caravans or trailers, vehicles and other methods of transport (not derelict). Outdoor storage, plant, machinery, agricultural, forestry property, other outdoor structures including post boxes, tunnels, bridges, etc., any fire involving casualties or rescues, or attended by five or more appliances, would also be categorised as a primary fire.

Secondary fires are generally small fires which start in, and are confined to, outdoor locations. Typically, they are fires in grass or heathland, fires involving rubbish, fires involving street or railway furniture and fires in derelict buildings or vehicles. Aggregated basic information is collected for secondary fires, chimney fires and false fire alarms from the monthly summary provided by brigades. However, fires in secondary locations which involve casualties or rescues or which are attended by five or more appliances are reported in the same way as a primary location.

Chimney fires are those where the damage caused is restricted to the chimney involved. Brigades record only the numbers of chimney fires.

Casualty data

Casualties from fires are categorised as fatal and non-fatal casualties. A fatal fire casualty is someone whose death is attributed to a fire, even if death occurred weeks or months later. However, it is possible that, in some cases, a subsequent death is not reported. The figures for fatalities are subject to revision as death certificates are received from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Scottish and Northern Ireland Registrars General, which tends to increase the numbers. Conversely, information provided by the Fire Service is forwarded to ONS, etc. for confirmation that fire was the main cause of death, which latter information leads to a decrease in the number recorded, particularly for fires involving road vehicles.

Accidental or malicious fires

Brigades determine the most likely cause of fire on the basis of the evidence available. If the certain cause of fire is not known, brigades are asked to give the cause which could be most reasonably supposed, given the evidence available. Accidental fires make up the majority of fires in buildings, while malicious fires make up the majority of fires in road vehicles in recent years. Accidental fires include those where the cause was not known or unspecified. Malicious fires include those where malicious or deliberate ignition is merely suspected, and recorded by the brigade as “doubtful”.

Since 1994, the assessment of the cause of primary fires (accidental or malicious) was made by fire brigade personnel directly ticking the appropriate box on the fire report form FDR1 rather than by data input managers at the Department of Communities and Local Government making an assessment of a text description, as used previously. This changed the classification of certain types of primary fires, from accidental to malicious. The effect appeared most noticeable for building fires, where approximately 4,000 fires may have been categorised as malicious where they were previously classed as accidental.

Why collect fire data?

Fire statistics are produced to monitor the number and characteristics of fires attended by UK fire brigades, including the causes and effects of fire so that action can be taken to reduce the human and financial cost of fire. The effectiveness of such action can also be measured by fire statistics.

The Department of Communities and Local Government and local fire brigades use fire statistics in making operational decisions, policy development and in promoting public awareness about the dangers of fire.

The timely collection of fire statistics contributes to the stated aim of the Fire and Emergency Planning Directorate of the DCLG. To ensure the reduction of fire, deaths, injury damage, to ensure the safety of the public through civil protection.

Other Government Departments also use Department of Communities and Local Government fire data, for example, the Department of Trade and Industry use fire statistics to inform their research into consumer safety issues.

There are also a small number of parliamentary questions about fire each year.

Fire Statistics History

In 1978, the Fire Damage Report (FDR1) was introduced taking over from the K433 fire report form. From 1979, the fire statistical data collected by brigades was computerized in electronic format by the Home Office. The data for the years 1978 and 1980 were not complete due to industrial action. Complete fire datasets were available for analysis back to 1981. They published fire statistics going back to the mid-1940s. In 1988 and 1989, a shortened version of coding was used for type of property and for trade or business categories, reducing the amount of detail available in these years. In 1994, form FDR1 was revised involving many changes in the structure of the fire data collected by brigades, opening up the potential for electronic data interchange between brigades and the Department of Communities and Local Government which would make possible more detailed analyses of the causes and effects of fires.

What fire data was collected?

The details of each property fire and/or fire involving casualties attended by UK fire brigades were collected on detailed reports (FDR1). These reports are keyed into a database which amounts annually to about 200,000 more serious fires where data has been collected individually. Brigades also supplied monthly summary figures for small outdoor fires, chimney fires and false alarms. These are returned to the Department of Communities and Local Government on an aggregate form (FDR3).

The British Crime Survey (BCS) is a large sample survey which is mainly concerned with measuring the extent of crime against householders in England and Wales. However, on occasion, it also includes questions on recent experiences of having a fire at home. The results provide a useful supplement to the reports collected by brigades.

Customised analysis of fire data

It was possible to create customised tables and charts based on the fire statistics collected by the Department of Communities and Local Government. The information about primary fires recorded by brigades on the FDR1 was converted by the Department of Communities and Local Government into data items which make up an annual database of fire statistics (data exists in electronic format for analysis purposes from 1981 onwards). The data items are converted into analytic variables by using a statistical analysis package. On the basis of data items collected, it is possible to derive the location of fire, most likely cause, source of ignition, spread of fire, method of fire-fighting, time and day of call to brigade, risk to life, rescue information, the details of casualties and many other variables. Since 1994, FDR1 forms have been input on the basis of a systematic sample, with the following approximate sampling fractions: 1994 – 10 percent; 1995 – 40 percent; 1996 -20 percent; 1997 – 20 percent. Each fire record is weighted to agreed brigade totals, according to the brigade area and the time of year in which the fire occurs. However, all fires involving fatal and non-fatal casualties were input, making a 100% record of casualty fires. Both fire and casualty data are revised based on information received from brigades in the following year. During the year of input and initial publication, all data are regarded as provisional.

The Incident Recording System (IRS)

The present method is an electronic system called The Incident Recording System (IRS) and is a national project led by Communities and Local Government. The IRS modernises the existing fire and rescue incident data collection system by radically changing methods of data collection. With the active engagement of fire and rescue services (FRS’s) and other stakeholders this project will enable the data on all incidents attended by the UK Fire and Rescue Service to be collected electronically and verified at source, improving on the timeliness and accuracy of the previous manual collection.

Fire Statistics DCLG publications

The latest statistics can be found on the DCLG website and require an Acrobat Reader to to download them. If you would like to use the DCLG website click on DCLG and you can choose the relevant statistics you require. The National Statistics Online has datasets on fire related matters that may be of use.