Turning up the heat with some scorching fire statistics
September marked the 250th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, which burned for four days and almost completely destroyed the Medieval City of London within the old Roman walls, changing the face fo the capital forever. While the damage was extensive and the homes of up to 80,000 Londoners were destroyed in the conflagration, a regularly cited figure says only six deaths were officially recorded. The low death toll may be because the deaths of poor people were beneath the notice of the recorders, or it may be because, with temperatures reaching 1,250°C, there were simply no remaints to count.
Three and a half centuries on this remains one of the most well-known fire disasters, even if it is officially far from the most deadly. That leaves us with the burning question, which fire events have been the most destructive? And what other interesting fire statistics are out there?
The most lethan recorded building fire took place in Santiago, Chile, in 1863, when somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 people died as an inferno took hold of the Church of the Company. As the crowds gathered to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, an oil lamp on the main altar accidentally set fire to veils which were decorating the walls and very quickly spread throughout the church. Here's a run-down of the ten most deadly building fires by death toll:
It's clear from this chart that theatres were particularly prone to catastrophic fires, with the combination of candlelight, props and large, densely packed audiences creating a very hazardous mix. These days modern fire systems and safety precautions mean there are, fortunately, very few large-scale public buildinng fires which result in high death tolls.
Domestic fires are anther matter. Between April 2015 and March 2016, England's Fire and Rescue Service attended 528,700 incidents across the country. That was 7% up on the previous year, but overall fire statistics are on a downward trajectory - high as the call-out numbers are, they are in fact 52% lower than a decade ago. Of those call-outs in 2015/16, only 31% were to actual fires, with the remainder being false alarms or non-fire related incidents. In that same period there were 303 fire fatalitites, 39 more than in the previous year.
In America there are an average of 374,000 residential fires every year, resulting in around 2,600 deaths. Here's a chart to show the causes of most fires in the home:
With the evenings drawing in and the colder weather on its way, autumn and winter are the peak season for domestic fires. Hopefully these stats won't take detract from the enjoyment of bonfire night and the roaring log fire on Christmas morning, but the charts certainly make a case for checking your smoke alarms.