This book is an overview of the nations fire problem. Fire departments in the United States respond to nearly 18 million fire calls each year. The U.S. fire problem, on a per capita basis, is one of the worst in the industrial world. Thousands of Americans die each year, tens of thousands of people are injured, and property losses reach billions of dollars. There are huge indirect costs of fire as well; temporary lodging, lost business, medical expenses, psychological damage, and others. These indirect costs may be as much as 8 to 10 times higher than the direct costs of fire. To put this in context, the annual losses from floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters combined in the United States average just a fraction of those from fires. The public, the media, and local governments generally are unaware of the magnitude and seriousness of the fire problem to individuals and their families, to communities, and to the Nation.
This book is designed to arm the fire service and others with information that motivates corrective action, sets priorities, targets specific fire programs, serves as a model for state and local analysis of fire data, and provides a baseline for evaluating programs. This is an edited, excerpted and augmented edition of various government publications.