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House fire injury prevention update. Part I. A review of risk factors for fatal and non-fatal house fire injury
  1. Lynne Warda1,
  2. Milton Tenenbein2,
  3. Michael E K Moffatt1
  1. 1Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Manitoba and IM-PACT: Injuries Manitoba–Prevention of Adolescent and Childhood Trauma, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  2. 2Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Manitoba
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr L Warda, 840 Sherbrook Street, Room CN104, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3A 1S1, Canada
 (e-mail: lwarda{at}


Objective—To summarize house fire injury risk factor data, using relative risk estimation as a uniform method of comparison.

Methods—Residential fire risk factor studies were identified as follows: MEDLINE (1983 to March 1997) was searched using the keywords fire*/burn*, with etiology/cause*, prevention, epidemiology, and smoke detector* or alarm*. ERIC (1966 to March 1997) and PSYCLIT (1974 to June 1997) were searched by the above keywords, as well as safety, skills, education, and training. Other sources included: references of retrieved publications, review articles, and injury prevention books; Injury Prevention journal hand search; government documents; and internet sources. When not provided by the authors, relative risk (RR), odds ratio, and standardized mortality ratios were calculated, to enhance comparison between studies.

Results—Fifteen relevant articles were retrieved, including two case-control studies. Non-modifiable risk factors included young age (RR 1.8–7.5), old age (RR 2.6–3.6), male gender (RR 1.4–2.9), non-white race (RR 1.3–15.0), low income (RR 3.4), disability (RR 2.5–6.5), and late night/early morning occurrence (RR 4.1). Modifiable risk factors included place of residence (RR 2.1–4.2), type of residence (RR 1.7–10.5), smoking (RR 1.5 to 7.7), and alcohol use (RR 0.7–7.5). Mobile homes and homes with fewer safety features, such as a smoke detector or a telephone, presented a higher risk of fatal injury.

Conclusions—Risk factor data should be used to assist in the development, targeting, and evaluation of preventive strategies. Development of a series of quantitative systematic reviews could synthesize existing data in areas such as house fire injury prevention.

  • fire prevention
  • epidemiology
  • smoke detectors
  • residential fires

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