Exploration of statistical approaches to estimating the risks and costs of fire in the United States



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Knowledge of fire risk is crucial for manufacturers and regulators to make correct choices in prescribing fire protection systems, especially flame retardants. Methods of determining fire risk are bogged down by a multitude of confounding factors, such as population demographics and overlapping fire protection systems. Teasing out the impacts of one particular choice or regulatory change in such an environment is crucial. Teasing out such detail requires statistical techniques, and knowledge of the field is important for verifying potential methods. Comparing the fire problems between two states might be one way to identify successful approaches to fire safety. California, a state with progressive fire prevention policies, is compared to Texas using logistic regression modeling to account for various common factors such as percentage of rural population and percentage of population in ‘risky’ age brackets. Results indicate that living room fires, fires in which the first item ignited is a flammable liquid, piping, or filter, and fires started by cigarettes, pipes, and cigars have significantly higher odds of resulting in a casualty or fatality than fires started by other areas of origin, items first ignited, or heat sources. Additionally, fires in Texas have roughly 1.5 times higher odds of resulting in casualties than fires in California for certain areas of origin, items first ignited, and heat sources. Methods of estimating fire losses are also examined. The potential of using Ramachandran’s power-law relationship to estimate fire losses in residential home fires in Texas is examined, and determined to be viable but not discriminating. CFAST is likewise explored as a means to model fire losses. Initial results are inconclusive, but Monte Carlo simulation of home geometries might render the approach viable.