Home Office releases detailed analysis of fires attended by fire and rescue services in England

On 29 September 2022, the Home Office published its detailed analysis of “fires attended by fire and rescue services (FRSs)” in England between April 2021 and March 2022.

Covering the financial year between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022, the annual report covers numerous data – as listed by the Incident Recording System (IRS) – on fire incidents, including fire-related fatalities, non-fatal casualties, rescues, and evacuations; the extent of damage and spread of fire; the causes of dwelling fires and fire-related fatalities; temporal and seasonal fire analyses; and smoke alarm functions.  

In summary, in the year ending March 2022, a total of 577,053 incidents were attended to by FRSs, which is an 11% increase from last year and a 5% decrease from 10 years ago. Of these incidents, there were 152,608 fires – fires accounted for 26%, fire false alarms 40%, and non-fire incidents 34%.

Some key statistics

  • There were 272 fire-related fatalities, with 76% of them being in dwelling fires.
  • Fire-related fatalities in other buildings saw a decrease compared with the previous year, with there being 11 such fire-related fatalities.
  • There were 30 fire-related fatalities in purpose-built flats or maisonettes.
  • There were 2,794 rescues from primary fires, which was a slight increase from the previous year (1%) but a big decrease from 5 and 10 years ago (3,210 and 3,915, respectively).
  • Of the data from primary fires, 4,361 involved and evacuation.
  • 76% of non-fatal casualties were in dwelling fires, which is similar to previous years, and the number of non-fatal casualties in other buildings remains relatively unchanged.

Where the cause of death was known, the most common cause of death for fire-related fatalities was “overcome by gas or smoke” and represented 32% of fire-related fatalities. The Home Office reports that this has been “the most common cause of death” since the start of the online IRS report in 2009/10. The second most common cause of death was “burns”.

In addition to the above statistics, IRS also recorded the extent of damage caused by the spread of fire. It was found that the average area of damage to dwellings had decreased, matching the downward trend of previous years. The average area of damage to other buildings also saw a decrease. For purpose-built high-rise flats or maisonettes of 10 storeys or more, only 6% of fires spread beyond the room of origin. This is compared to “eight per cent in purpose-built medium-rise (4-9 storeys) flats or maisonettes and ten per cent in purpose-built low-rise (1-3 storeys) flats or maisonettes”. Only 2% of dwelling fires affected the “whole building”, which is similar to the figures from previous years, while the proportion of dwelling fires that were “limited to item first ignited” saw a gradual increase from 28% to 33%.

In terms of the causes of dwelling fires, cooking appliances accounted for 45%, making them the largest “ignition category for accidental dwelling fires”. Smoker materials caused 7% of accidental dwelling fires but were the largest “ignition category (except “other/unspecified”) for fire-related fatalities in accidental dwelling fires”, where they accounted for 24%. 31% of accidental dwelling fires were caused by “misuse of equipment or appliances”.

The Home Office also released data related to smoke alarm function in the year ending March 2022. It was found that fires where “a smoke alarm was not present” accounted for 24% of all dwelling fires and 37% of all dwelling fire-related fatalities. They added: “Mains-powered smoke alarms continued to have a lower ‘failure rate’ than battery-powered smoke alarms; 21 per cent of mains-powered smoke alarms failed to operate in dwelling fires compared with 36 per cent of battery-powered smoke alarms.”

The annual report shows statistics from the IRS, which is a continually updated database, however it may not match the data held by FRSs locally.

You can view the report here.