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Harpur A., Boyce, K. and McConnel N., 2014. An Investigation into the Circumstances Surrounding Elderly Dwelling Fire Fatalities and the Barriers to Implementing Fire Safety Strategies among this Group. Fire Safety Science 11: 1144-1159. 10.3801/IAFSS.FSS.11-1144
Examination of real-fire data has indicated that, globally, the elderly, particularly elderly males are those most at risk of becoming a dwelling fire fatality. This paper presents an analysis of the circumstances surrounding elderly dwelling fire fatalities gleaned from coronial reports. The analysis indicated that many elderly fatalities were involved in ignition and had existing health conditions that played a role in the fire. The most common fire scenario (which started in home furnishing located in the living room by carelessly discarded smokers’ materials) accounted for a quarter of elderly fatalities. The risk factors associated with elderly fatalities were similar to other adult fatalities. However, there were some statistically significant differences. The elderly were less likely to have alcohol play a role in their death, more likely to be involved in fires where their clothing was the seat of the fire, have physical illness play a role, and have burn injuries as their primary cause of death. The fire risk to elderly householders was frequently identified by members of the community; however, many felt it was inappropriate to intervene to negate the risk although there were some examples of fatalities that occurred even where fire safety measures had subsequently been adopted. The most concerning result from this study is the minimal attention given to how elderly householders, especially those with poor mobility, would escape in the event of a fire.