Facts About Fires in Office Buildings

Over a dozen U.S. office buildings catch fire each day.
Over a dozen U.S. office buildings catch fire each day. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Although fires happen more frequently in residential and industrial settings, they occur in office buildings as well. The potential risks of loss of life are often greater in an office setting. Fortunately, office buildings usually provide extra fire safety systems, such as sprinklers and exit signs. The facts about fires in office buildings reveal how often they occur and what causes them, among other things.


Roughly 6,000 fires occur in U.S. office buildings every year, according to the Seattle Fire Department. This means that an average of 16 conflagrations break out at offices every day. The Seattle Fire Department also indicates that other developed nations have lower rates of workplace fires than the U.S. These facts suggest that office building owners and employees could do more to limit the fire risk, although it remains impossible to prevent every blaze.


Fires start in office buildings for many different reasons, but cigarettes, arson and wiring spark many office fires, according to the Seattle Fire Department. Security measures can help prevent arson or at least help the police apprehend those responsible for such crimes. Cooking appliances such as electric coffee pots are a major cause of office fires, accounting for 25 percent of fires but only 3 percent of property damage from 2004 to 2008, according to the National Fire Protection Association.


To understand the full effect of fires in office buildings, it's helpful to know their overall human and monetary cost. The National Fire Protection Association reports that fires in offices from 2004 through 2008 killed an average of four people and injured 37 each year . The fires also caused about $108 million in damage each year.

Safety Tips

Every office should have a fire emergency plan that is kept accessible to all employees. If a fire alarm sounds, treat it as a real emergency. Call 911, then exit the building, using the stairs rather than the elevator, which call quickly fill with smoke. Close doors as you leave to help prevent the spread of fire and smoke through the office building.

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