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Hong Kong is a small but densely populated oriental city with limited natural resources. The fire engineering approach to formulating fire safety strategies for buildings requires information on the number and characteristics of fires that occurred in different types of buildings. In this paper, fire incident statistical data collected by the Hong Kong Fire Services Department for years 1991 to 2001 is analysed. It is found that residential buildings constituted 75% of the total number of building fires, however fire risk appears to be the highest in buildings classified as Places of Public Assembly, using the number of fatalities and injuries per fire as an indicator. The statistical data seems to imply that quality of maintenance of equipment and power supply in privately built shopping arcades, commercial premises and residential buildings is lower than the same buildings owned by the government. Apart from the fire engineering perspective, the fire statistics seems to also reflect to some degree the social make-up and work pattern of the society of Hong Kong, for example, more fires due to carelessness occurred in buildings with lesser educated occupants, and relatively uniform temporal distribution of fires in most parts of the day in private commercial buildings due to significant amount of overtime and overnight work.