House fire statistics

There are roughly 50% fewer house fires today than 40 years ago, but the average cost of damage caused has nearly doubled.

Kara McGinleyPat Howard 1600

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Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

&Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a senior editor and licensed home insurance agent at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

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While the number of house fires has declined steadily over the past 40 years, fires today cause far more damage. In fact, the average fire loss per house in 2020 was $23,562, compared to $12,214 in 1980. [1] Fortunately, your homeowners insurance can pay to rebuild your house or replace your belongings after an expensive fire.

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House fires statistics and facts

  • $8.4 billion in property damage was caused from house fires in 2020 [2]

  • 49% of house fires are caused by cooking accidents [3]

  • 3% of house fires are caused by wildfires, but they cause 11% of all house fire losses [4]

  • $78,838 is the average home insurance house fire claim [5]

  • 20% of fires occur between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. [6]

  • 3.5 minutes is all it takes for a house fire to reach over 1,100℉ [7]

  • 48% of Thanksgiving Day house fires occur between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. [8]

How many house fires are there per year?

Around 356,500 house fires occurred in 2020. Below is a further breakdown of house fire facts and figures by the year.  [9]

  • 28,400 was the average number of house fires started intentionally from 2015 to 2019 [10]

  • 2,580 civilian deaths occurred from house fires in 2020 [11]

  • 264,500 house fires occurred in one- or-two storied homes in 2019 [12]

  • 75,000 apartment fires occurred in 2019 [13]

  • 86,000 apartment fires occurred in 2020 [14]

  • 1,100 fires in residential buildings were caused by portable heaters from 2017-2019 [15]

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What is the biggest cause of house fires?

Here are the top five leading causes of residential fires from 2015 to 2019, according to the NFPA. [16]

CauseAverage number of house firesAverage direct property losses
Cooking169,400$1.2 billion
Heating equipment45,800$1 billion
Electrical fires32,000$1.3 billion
Intentional28,400$554 million
Smoking materials16,300$511 million

While cooking was the leading cause, electrical fires brought the most damage. Smoking materials were the fifth leading cause of house fires, but they caused more deaths than any of the others.

Does homeowners insurance cover house fires?

Yes, homeowners insurance covers just about every cause of house fires, including wildfires and kitchen fires. If your house is damaged or destroyed by a fire, homeowners insurance can pay to rebuild your home and replace any damaged belongings. Your policy can also pay for temporary lodging, restaurant meals, and other living expenses while your home is being rebuilt or repaired.

→ Learn more: Homeowners insurance and fire coverage

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Frequently asked questions

What is the number one cause of house fires?

Cooking fires are the number one cause of house fires by far, causing on average 169,400 house fires per year from 2015 to 2019, according to the NFPA. Heating equipment is the second leading cause of house fires, resulting in 45,800 house fires on average from 2015 to 2019.

How common are house fires?

A house fire occurs every 89 seconds on average nationwide, according to the NFPA.

How many homes catch fire each year?

According to the NFPA, about 356,500 house fires occurred in 2020. In 2019, around 264,500 house fires occurred.