Nonresidential fires have a significant economic impact on a community as they may lead to lost jobs and closed businesses. In addition, because many nonresidential buildings are places where many people gather, they hold the greatest potential for a mass casualty incident to occur.
This report describes the characteristics of all nonresidential building fires reported to the National Fire Incident Reporting System for 2017‑2019.
- Each year from 2017 to 2019, an estimated average of 108,500 nonresidential building fires were reported to fire departments within the United States. These fires caused an estimated annual average of 90 deaths, 1,125 injuries and $2.8 billion in property loss.
- National estimates for 2017 to 2019 show that nonresidential buildings accounted for 20% of the total dollar loss from all fires.
- Nonresidential building fires increased by 8% from the previous 3-year period (2014 to 2016), when the estimated annual average of nonresidential building fires was 100,300.
- Outside and special properties accounted for the most nonresidential building fires (25%), while storage buildings accounted for the most nonresidential building fire deaths (22%).
- Nonresidential building fires occurred most frequently from 2 to 7 p.m.
- Cooking was the leading cause of all nonresidential building fires (30%). Nearly all nonresidential building cooking fires were small, confined fires (95%).
- Nonconfined nonresidential building fires most often started in vehicle storage areas (8%).
- In 58% of nonconfined nonresidential building fires, the fire extended beyond the room of origin. The leading causes of these larger fires were other unintentional or careless actions (25%), electrical malfunctions (11%) and exposures (11%).
- Misuse of material or product (31%) was the leading category of factors contributing to ignition in nonconfined nonresidential building fires.
- Smoke alarms were not present in 50% of the larger, nonconfined fires in occupied nonresidential buildings.
- Full or partial automatic extinguishing systems (AESs) were reported as present in only 22% of nonconfined fires in occupied nonresidential buildings.