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A Multi-national Survey of Low-Energy and Smoking Materials Ignition Fires

Abstract

The three-part study described in this paper involved a detailed evaluation of fire statistics from four countries to compare the number of deaths and injuries from structure fires started by a small open flame ignition source to casualty counts from fires started by smoking materials. First, a qualitative multi-national comparison of low-energy and smoking materials ignition fires is made based on fire statistics obtained from the U.S., the U.K., Japan, and Finland for the period between 2002 and 2012. From this comparison it can be concluded that, compared to the other nations, the U.K. appears to have more of a problem with smoking materials ignition fires resulting in fatalities; and that Japan appears to have appreciably more smoking materials ignition fires, but not fatalities from such fires, than the other nations. A more detailed quantitative analysis is then performed to examine the contribution of low-energy (match, lighter, space heater, etc.) versus smoking materials (cigar, pipe, cigarette, etc.) ignition to the U.S. fire problem. An attempt was made to address two issues with the U.S. NFIRS database, i.e., the fact that it is based on a voluntary sample of U.S. fire department incident reports and that many of the data categories relevant to the present study contain unknown fields. From this analysis it is apparent that smoking materials ignition fires tend to more commonly result in fatalities than low-energy ignition fires, while the overall volume of low-energy ignition fires and corresponding losses and injuries are greater. Finally, a logistic regression model is presented that can be used to predict the probability that a fire resulting in a fatality was started by low-energy ignition based on the age and race of the victim, the item first ignited, and the season in the year when the fire took place. The model indicates that older persons are generally more susceptible to perishing in a fire resulting from smoking materials ignition rather than low-energy ignition.

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Notes

  1. Although past 2009 fire incidents in Northern Ireland have been excluded from the U.K. statistics, the comparisons between nations in this paper cover the period from 2002 to 2012 and the fire statistics for Great Britain are therefore assumed to be representative of the U.K.

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Acknowledgments

The authors greatly acknowledge the financial support of the American Chemistry Council for the work described in this paper. The authors also want to express their gratitude to Mr. Nazneen Chowdhury, Dr. Tuula Hakkarainen, and Dr. Ai Sekizawa for providing the statistical data for this study from the U.K., Finland, and Japan, respectively. The authors also appreciate the critique provided on an earlier version of this manuscript by anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Marc Janssens.

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Anderson, A., Janssens, M. A Multi-national Survey of Low-Energy and Smoking Materials Ignition Fires. Fire Technol 52, 1709–1735 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10694-015-0550-6

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Keywords

  • Fire statistics
  • Logistic regression model
  • Low-energy ignition fires
  • Open flame ignition fires
  • Smoking materials ignition fires