This article was updated 9 June 2020.
A fire in the home can occur at any time, without warning. Even with the best precautions in place, no property is immune from the risks of fire and the often irreversible devastation and heartbreak it can cause.
The following UK fire statistics have been compiled to draw attention to the risks of house fires, the main causes of house fires, and when most house fires occur. All information was sourced from the Home Office’s official fire statistics data tables page on the gov.uk website, and are representative of 2018/19.
How many fires are there in the UK each year?
There were 36,283 dwelling fires in the UK in 2018/19, according to Home Office statistics. This is the lowest number on record. The highest number of fires attended by fire and rescue services on record in a calendar year is 71,082, occurring in 1999/00.
In terms of breakdown by country:
- There were 29,592 dwelling fires attended in England in 2017/18, which works out at 529 fires per 1 million people
- There were 5,137 dwelling fires attended in Scotland in 2017/18, which works out at 945 fires per 1 million people
- There were 1,554 dwelling fires attended in Wales in 2017/18, which works out at 495 fires per 1 million people
While England may have had the most house fires in total, Scotland has the most house fires on average, based on the size of its population.
How many deaths are caused by fire each year in the UK?
There were 316 fire-related deaths in the UK in 2018/19, according to the government statistics. The highest number of deaths caused by fire occurred in 1985/86, when there were 967 fire-related fatalities.
What are the most common causes of house fires in the UK?
The most common causes of accidental house fires in the UK according to official Home Office statistics are as follows:
- Cooking appliances: 2340 incidents
- Smokers’ materials: 459 incidents
- Other electrical appliances: 397 incidents
- Electrical distribution: 321 incidents
- Candles: 310 incidents
- Space heating appliances: 179 incidents
- Cigarette lighters: 70 incidents
- Central and water heating appliances: 33 incidents
- Blowlamps, welding and cutting equipment: 24 incidents
- Matches: 17 incidents
- Other / Unspecified*: 477 incidents
*Other/Unspecified = Natural occurrence, Not applicable, Other and Overheating unknown cause
Chart showing the most common causes of house fires in the UK in 2018/19
What percentage of fires are caused by people?
67% (17,843) of accidental dwelling fires in the UK in 2018/19 were caused by human factors, such as bonfires going out of control, careless handling, cooking, negligent use of equipment or appliances, or playing with fire.
25% (6,494) of accidental dwelling fires in the UK in 2018/19 were caused by non-human factors, such as chimney fires, faulty equipment or appliances, faulty fuel supplies or faulty leads to equipment or appliances.
The remaining 8% of fires were caused by other/unspecified factors, such as natural occurrences or overheating from an unknown source.
When do most house fires occur in the UK?
House fires can happen at any time of day and at any time of year but are most common in December, and between the hours of 6pm and 8pm. Winter months naturally see an increase in chimney fires, particularly in December, January, and February.
How many home fire deaths result from fires with no working smoke alarms?
Official UK smoke alarm statistics show that in 25% of dwelling fires attended in England in 2018/19, a smoke alarm was not present.
In the same year, there were 196 fatalities in dwellings where a smoke alarm was not present, or was present but did not operate or raise alarm.
How many fires in the UK are deliberate?
Of the 36,283 dwelling fires attended by UK fire and rescue services in 2018/19, approximately 10% (3,667) were started deliberately.
There were 52 fatalities in England in the same year caused by deliberate fires, and a further 1,014 casualties.
What are UK Fire response times?
The average response time to dwelling fires in England in 2018/19 was 7 minutes 47 seconds.
Naturally, response time differs depending on the location, with rural areas typically experiencing longer response times, and metropolitan areas experiencing shorter response times. Response times for location types in England in 2017/18 are shown below:
- Metropolitan: 6m 38s
- Non-metropolitan: 8m 41s
- Predominantly urban: 6m 59s
- Significantly rural: 8m 52s
- Predominantly rural: 9m 11s
For information about fire safety in the home, download this helpful guide or seek information from your local fire department.