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Risk factors associated with unintentional house fire incidents, injuries and deaths in high-income countries: a systematic review
  1. Samantha L Turner1,
  2. Rhodri D Johnson1,
  3. Alison L Weightman2,
  4. Sarah E Rodgers1,
  5. Geri Arthur3,
  6. Rowena Bailey1,
  7. Ronan A Lyons1,3
  1. 1Farr Institute, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
  2. 2Specialist Unit for Review Evidence, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  3. 3Public Health Wales NHS Trust, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to Samantha L Turner, Farr Institute, Swansea University Medical School, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK; s.turner{at}


Objective To identify the distinguishing risk factors associated with unintentional house fire incidents, injuries and deaths.

Study design Systematic review.

Methods A range of bibliographical databases and grey literature were searched from their earliest records to January 2016. To ensure the magnitude of risk could be quantified, only those study types which contained a control group, and undertook appropriate statistical analyses were included. A best evidence synthesis was conducted instead of a meta-analysis due to study heterogeneity.

Results Eleven studies investigating a variety of risk factors and outcomes were identified. Studies ranged from medium to low quality with no high quality studies identified. Characteristics commonly associated with increased risk of house fire incidents, injuries and fatalities included: higher numbers of residents, male, children under the age of 5 years, non-working households, smoking, low income, non-privately owned properties, apartments and buildings in poor condition. Several risk factors were only associated with one outcome (eg, living alone was only associated with increased risk of injurious fires), and households with older residents were at increased risk of injurious fires, but significantly less likely to experience a house fire in the first place.

Conclusions This best evidence synthesis indicates that several resident and property characteristics are associated with risk of experiencing house fire incidents, injuries or death. These findings should be considered by the Fire and Rescue Services and others with a role in fire prevention. Future research should adopt robust, standardised study designs to permit meta-analyses and enable stronger conclusions to be drawn.

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  • Contributors SLT, RAL and SER designed the study concept. SLT and ALW determined the search terms and inclusion criteria. The initial title search was conducted by SLT. SLT, RDJ and GA reviewed abstracts and full text articles against the inclusion criteria. SLT and RDJ extracted data from the included studies and conducted the quality assessment. RB supported the interpretation of statistical findings. SLT drafted the initial manuscript. All authors revised the manuscript and approved the final manuscript as submitted.

  • Funding Public Health Wales.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.