FIRE is America’s Biggest Disaster

The biggest disaster threat in the United States isn’t floods, hurricanes or tornadoes; it’s fire.


In our community I have personally been at the scene for dozens of house fires. As an insurance agent, I am often the second person that the homeowner calls, after “911.” It’s incredibly sad to stand on the front lawn and witness first-hand the destruction of property. You feel defenseless. Fire moves fast, and often takes hours to extinguish.

This article is filled with statistics on purpose. I really want to show the devastating numbers. They are real.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency:

Home fires

  • Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep. Only one in five home fires were reported during these hours.
  • One quarter of home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom. Another quarter resulted from fires in the living room, family room or den.
  • 60% of home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.
  • Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths.
  • Roughly one of every 320 households had a reported home fire per year.
  • A fire is reported in the United States every 85 seconds.


  • 40% of home fires started in the kitchen.
  • Unattended cooking was a factor in one-third of reported home cooking fires.
  • Failure to clean was a factor contributing to ignition in 17% of reported home fires involving ovens or rotisseries.


  • The leading factor contributing to heating equipment fires was failure to clean. This usually involved creosote build-up in chimneys.
  • Portable or fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, were involved in one-third (33%) of home heating fires and four out of five (81%) home heating deaths.
  • In most years, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires, fire deaths, and fire injuries.

Smoking Materials

  • Most deaths in home smoking-material fires were caused by fires that started in bedrooms (40%) or living rooms, family rooms or dens (35%).
  • Possible alcohol impairment was a factor in one in five (19%) of home smoking fire deaths.


  • About half (48%) of home electrical fires involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment. Other leading types of equipment were washer or dryer, fan, portable or stationary space heater, air conditioning equipment water heater and range.


  • More than one-third of these fires (36%) started in the bedroom;
  • Falling asleep was a factor in 11% of the home candle fires and 37% of the associated deaths.

Smoke Alarms

  • 60% of home fire deaths are caused by fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
  • In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 93% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated only 79% of the time.
  • When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.

Wallin Insurance teams up with the American Red Cross.

As an insurance agency we wanted to do something to help this community. We chose this project “Home Fire Preparedness Campaign” where we evaluate and install smoke alarms in area homes. We also educate homeowners on having an escape plan in the event of a fire.

If we can make a difference to just one homeowner, we will feel good about our service to the community.

To date the agents and staff at Wallin Insurance have installed more than 50 smoke alarms in 15 homes in Chemung County. We are the only trained and certified volunteers performing this service.

For more information or if you’d like your home to be evaluated contact me, Peter Wallin at 607–734–8799 or We normally perform installations on Thursdays.


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