Front page of the study "Fatal residential fires in Europe"
19 Nov 2019

Fatal residential fires in Europe - a report

Fire Prevention
Fire Investigation
Communication Group
Civilian Deaths
Current Affairs in Fire & Rescue

The improvement of fire safety in the living environment can only be effective when we have knowledge about the chances, circumstances and effects of residential fires. Since fire safety and fire safety measures transcend national borders, greater insights into residential fires on a European level is necessary. 

 

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For this reason, the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) and the Dutch Fire Service Academy (IFV) have conducted a research study into fatal residential fires in Europe. The data of 9 European countries has been collected and analysed and the first results of this research are detailed in this report. 

This report is a first step towards a better understanding of fatal residential fires in Europe. However, in the future, more steps need to be taken to create a more reliable image of fatal residential fires in Europe. For example, the data of more countries needs to be collected and analysed to arrive at a more representative selection of European countries. 

Furthermore, to have more conformity, this data needs to be reported over similar time periods. This report contains singular data, but future research will also contain crosslinks which will provide more insight into the relationship between the causes and effects of fatal residential fires. 

In the past, various differences in definitions have impeded a sound statistical overview. This report therefore tries to overcome these differences and makes a start on building a reliable statistical overview that will make comparisons between countries possible. 

René Hagen 

Professor of Fire Safety 

Institute for Safety, Fire Service Academy  Arnhem, the Netherlands 

 

Fatal residential fires in Europe, a screen shot of the report front page

 

In this report we have answered the question: What information is available on fatal residential fires in European countries? This question was answered by analysing both the literature (international and national) and the data which we received from the selected countries by asking them to fill out two questionnaires. 

A first step was to look for factors associated with fatal residential fires. Regarding our first sub-question ‘which possible risk factors for fatal residential fires are known in the Netherlands and international meta-analyses?’, we combined our own knowledge on risk factors from the Netherlands with findings from international meta-analyses. As a result, the following characteristics can be related to fatal residential fires: intervention characteristics, fire characteristics, building characteristics and human characteristics. These characteristics are covered by the Dutch questionnaire and formed the basis and main focus of this research. 

Thereafter, we examined the definitions that are used, answering the following question: which definitions are used for the collected items and to what extent do they correspond per country? Although we found a variation in the definitions, there are certain similarities between the definitions that are used by the selected countries. All countries include fatalities that died later after the fire, and all include holiday homes. These minor differences should not be hard to overcome, as long as we keep them in mind when interpreting the data. 

In case of greater differences in definitions, we should look for definitions that are more comparable. 

We also analysed what information was collected in the databases of the selected countries, answering the third sub-question: what information about fatal residential fires is collected in the databases in the selected European countries? Although, the selected countries differ with regard to the information they collect, many similarities were found. All countries collect information on the number of fatalities, injured people, and people that escaped with the assistance of the fire brigade. Furthermore, all countries that answered our first questionnaire have information on the type of house, and the age and gender of the victim. 

We investigated this information further by analysing both the literature and a second questionnaire in which we asked for actual data, meaning that we can identify the risk factors and main characteristics per country. In doing so, we answered the following question: what are the main characteristics of, and risk factors concerning, fatal residential fires at a country level? Although we found many risk factors, there are still many factors that remain main characteristics, because they are not related to the overall population or non-fatal fires. 

The final question was: Is it possible, based on the available information, to draw up a risk profile at a European level? If not, what is necessary to provide information for this risk profile? We have identified several risk factors regarding human characteristics, intervention characteristics, fire characteristics and building characteristics, enabling us to draft a first European risk profile. Overall, the risks that were found are not (yet) found in all countries. Furthermore, the main characteristics we found, still need to be related to the overall population or non-fatal fires, to conclude on risk factors.