STUDY: The Number of Reported House Fires Likely to Increase 15-19% This Holiday Season Staff Staff

The number of house fires has been on a steady decline for decades, although this year could be different. According to a new study from the home insurance research team, it’s predicted that there will be a spike in fires this holiday season as more people than ever are planning to spend their holidays at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cooking-related incidents are the number one cause of house fires, and as more people prepare holiday meals in their own kitchens this year, we expect to see a jump in house fires. 

Fast facts:

  • Considering how many more people are planning on spending their holidays at home during the pandemic, and thus cooking at home more, our most recent analysis suggests there will be a temporary increase in house fires, somewhere between 2,200 to 2,700 (15 to 19%) in the month of December.
  • The number one cause of house fires are cooking-related accidents, which account for almost 50% of all house fires.
  • Over the past several decades, house fires have been on a dramatic decline as safety measures have improved.

While the holidays normally bring large groups of people together, guidance from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that families stay separated this holiday season to avoid the spread of COVID-19. 

According to a study conducted by The New York Times, just over 75% of people plan on staying home for the holidays. This data suggests there will be a spike in the number of people who cook their own holiday meals this year.

According to data from the National Fire Protection Association, there are currently 350,000 reported house and structure fires a year, with half of house fires being cooking-related (approximately 175,000 a year, or almost 14,500 a month). We can estimate a spike to that total will occur in the month of December. This increase is based on more people staying at home and celebrating the holidays as an isolated household, requiring a considerable amount more cooking in the home.

Based on this data, the home insurance research team expects there will be a spike of several thousand house fires this holiday season specifically related to the increase in people celebrating in their own homes. Our estimates predict an increase somewhere between 2,200 and 2,700 house fires in the month of December, or an increase of somewhere between 15% and 19%.

“We’re expecting to see a spike in house fire insurance claims in the final month of 2020 as more Americans choose to cook holiday meals at home,” says home insurance researcher Marie Custodio. “This will likely be a temporary increase, and we do not foresee any notable increase to overall averages, but we do encourage people to be extra careful in the kitchen and at home this holiday season to avoid disaster.”

Related: How Families Can Prevent and Plan for Fires During COVID-19

It is important to note that while there will likely be a spike, the trend doesn’t seem likely to continue much past the holidays. It’s especially likely this trend will be confined to 2020, as next year’s holiday season will hopefully return to normal once the pandemic subsides. 

About the Authors

The staff is dedicated to providing you with all the deep-dive details. Our writers, researchers, and editors came together from Charlotte, Seattle, San Juan, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, and Chicago to put this review together.