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March 18, 1983

Fatal House Fires in an Urban Population

Author Affiliations

From The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore. Ms Mierley is now a student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia.

JAMA. 1983;249(11):1466-1468. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330350042024

House fires kill about 5,000 Americans annually, at a rate (2/100,000) that has remained almost constant for the past 50 years. House-fire deaths were studied in Baltimore, where 55 residents died during a three-year period. More than half of the deaths resulted from cigarette-ignited fires; 39% of the people who died in such fires were not the cigarette smokers themselves. For both blacks and whites, the death rate was highest in census tracts where property rental values were low. The death rate from fires ignited by heating or electrical equipment was nine times as high in the lowest-value census tracts as in the highest.

(JAMA 1983;249:1466-1468)