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Fire Research Notes


Chandler, S.E., 1968. A SURVEY OF MULTIPLE FATALITY INCIDENTS, 1960-1966. Fire Research Notes 703


The annual incidence of multiple death fires has been increasing over the last few years. In the period 1960 - 66, fire brigades reported 373 such incidents and 368 of the reports were used in this survey. There were 302 fires in buildings (237 occurred in dwellings); outdoor incidents numbered 66. One hundred and forty two of the incidents were in dwellings built before 1910. About two-thirds of the incidents occurred between October and March; the period of severe weather in the first three months of 1963 alone gave rise to 31 multiple death fires. Nearly 36 per cent of the fires were of unknown cause; smoking materials accounted for nearly 13 per cent and oil space heating about 10 per cent. In nearly 23 per cent of the fires furniture or furnishings were ignited; the proportion of these increased during the seven year period. Of the 1000 people who died in the incidents, 59 per cent were asphyxiated and 31 per cent received fatal burns. These incidents also gave rise to about 500 non-fatal casualties. Nearly sixty per cent of the victims were males. Three hundred and fifty nine children aged five and under died and 82 fatalities were recorded in the over-65 age group. It is likely that in at least one third of the incidents in dwellings a major factor in assisting the spread of fire and toxic gases was the failure to keep doors shut. Multiple death fires occur most frequently in areas in which multiple occupancy if dwellings is common and this, together with the fact that furniture and furnishings are often the materials ignited first, indicates overcrowding as an important factor.

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