Fire: costs and consequences

Live costs

Every year, many people die or are seriously injured by fires occurring in buildings.


At the beginning of the 21th century, Earth’s population is 6.300.000.000 inh., with a reported 7,000,000 -8,000,000 fires causing 70,000 – 80,000 deaths and 500,000 – 800,000 injuries. 90% of fire deaths were caused by fires in buildings. (Source: Center of Fires Statistics of CTIF 2006)

Fires have a high cost in loss of Human life. About a third of fires originate inside buildings. In Europe the median fire death rate per 100.000 inhabitants was near 1 in 2003 and 2004, equivalent to 30.000 deaths per year. (Source: Europacable)

   Live costs

Economic costs

Besides loss of lives, fires cause huge economic losses, through damage to property, loss of businesses and insurance premiums, etc.
70 large industrial fires cost over £275 million in the UK. (Source: UK Government: Fires in the home 2000 BCS)
Property damage due to fire in the US costs over $10 billion in 2001. (Source: P. Battrick, FM Global insurers,1988-1997)
In a recent report, CTIF (International Association of Fire and Rescue Service) estimates that: "the total economic costs of fires amount to around 1% of gross domestic product in most advanced countries".
  Economic costs

Opaque smoke and irritant gases are the major causes of death during fire.

They are:

  • Hot: Smoke and gases propagate ignition as they are hot.
  • Opaque: Black and opaque, smoke impede people’s view and hearing and can therefore disorient people during their evacuation.
  • Mobile: Smoke spreads the fire to other parts of building. 
  • Inflammable: Made of carbon and unburned particles, smoke acts as fuel.
  • Toxic: Inhaling even small hazardous acid gases can make people drowsy and short of breath, heavily impacting people’s behavior during evacuation operations.


The most identified cause of death from a fire incident is being overcome by gas and smoke, accounting for 44% of all deaths. (Source: British Department for Communities and Local Government 2005)

Every year in Europe, gas and smoke during fires claim 30,000 victims. (Source: CTIF 2003-2004)

The Swedish SRSA (Swedish Rescue Services Agency) in a report on Fire Prevention states that: "In 1950 the average time from ignition of a fire to flashover was 15 minutes. Then, 25 years ago, that time was down to 5 minutes and now fatal conditions can occur after 3 minutes. This change has come about because of the increase of plastics in our homes, nothing else."


Given these facts, reducing smoke and effluent gases is key for saving lives: it helps provide a safer environment for the rescue team and people and more time to evacuate.