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On January 5, 2022, a fire in a Philadelphia row house resulted in 12 deaths. A few days later on January 9, 2022, a fire in a Bronx highrise led to 17 deaths. Using data from NFPA, a profile of catastrophic multiple-death fires in the U.S., between 2002 and 2020, is shown below.

Catastrophic multiple-death fires, defined by NFPA as "residential fires that kill five or more people or nonresidential or nonstructural fires that kill three or more people", accounted for approximately 4% (+/- 2%) of overall deaths in the U.S. between 2002 and 2020.


Not surprisingly, a review of these incidents shows that they occurred in structures with no sprinkler systems; buildings were more than 50 years old, and in some cases, over a century old. With most building and fire codes grandfathering older structures from modern fire protection requirements, such as sprinkler systems, early occupant notification, and compartmentation become critical fire safety features. In several of the multiple-death incidents reviewed, non-functional alarm systems and early compromise of egress pathways were common themes, which highlights the need for risk assessment and inspection, testing, and maintenance to combat fire safety challenges in older structures.

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FireTox Technical Director, Dr. Jamie McAllister, was recently appointed to the NFPA 921 committee. NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations details the scientific methodology and analyses used when conducting a fire origin and cause investigation. In 2000, the Department of Justice stated in "Fire and Arson Scene Evidence: A Guide to Public Safety Personnel" that NFPA 921 is the "benchmark for the training and expertise of everyone who purports to be an expert in origin and cause determination of fires." We are honored to contribute to the continual improvements of the NFPA 921 document and to scientific advancements in the field of fire and explosion investigation.


FireTox recently completed a study assessing the relationship between medication use and fall & fire risk in the older adult population. The project was funded by the Fire Protection Research Foundation in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security. The full report can be accessed on the NFPA website by clicking here. FireTox is pleased to know that this work will provide additional content for community risk reduction programs such as NFPA's Remembering When program. The work will be presented at the 2022 NFPA Annual Conference in Boston, MA, June 6-9th. Registration is open now, and we hope to see you there!