TOPEKA — The Office of the State Fire Marshal has released its annual “Fires in Kansas” report based on reporting to the Kansas Fire Incident Reporting System by fire departments throughout the state. The statistics presented in this annual report were for the 2015 calendar year.
The report highlights the significant role the Kansas fire service plays in protecting the lives and property of the citizens of the state.
Incidents of almost every type of fire were reduced between 2014 and 2015, with the exception of vehicle fires, according to this report.
The most common type of fire was “vegetation fire” and incidents of this type of fire were reduced from 8,414 in 2014 to 7,188 in 2015. The second most common type of fire was “structure fire” and there were 488 fewer structure fires in 2015 than in 2014 — 3,660 in 2015, compared to 4,148 in 2014.
“Knowing the whens, whys, wheres and hows of fire in Kansas enables our brave firefighters to more intelligently attack the problems of fire in Kansas,” said State Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen.
“Our agency equips fire departments across the state with the information they need to be increasingly intelligent in how they protect the lives and property of Kansans.”
During 2015, vegetation fires accounted for nearly 48 percent of all fires. Kansas vegetation fires are mostly small, with 80 percent of vegetation fires burning less than 10 acres. Fire departments reported a loss of 110,690 burned acres in 2015 — a significant drop from 2014, during which 189,514 acres were burned.
Almost 1 in 5 vegetation fires are caused by a controlled burn — 1,382 in 2015 — and most of those occurred during the spring, with 812 in March 2015 alone.
The overwhelming majority of wildfires in Kansas are caused by humans. Only 3 percent of vegetation-related fires are attributed to fully natural causes.
Prescribed burns, poorly maintained vehicles and equipment, and heat sources being used in a flammable place or in an unsafe manner all are common ways that wildfires are started.
Kansas is well on its way to reducing structure fires. There was almost an 11-percent decrease in structure fires during 2015 alone. Residential fires have accounted for 71 to 76 percent of structure fires during the past 15 years. In 2015, 72 percent of structure fires were residential fires.
The most common fire cause is cooking, with 1 in 3 home fires in Kansas being cooking-related. Cooking fires in 2015 caused a reported loss of $1,656,086.
Alcohol, drugs and sleepiness are causes for cooking fires throughout the year. Impairments and sleeping were involved in 28 percent of fatal cooking fires during the last 15 years.
Homes with children pose an increase in fire risk. Unsupervised children cooking in the kitchen caused 98 fires in 2015. Since 2001, 1,639 cooking fires started with unattended children, resulting in 93 injuries.
Equipment-caused fires were the second most common structure fires in 2015. Clothes dryers and water heaters are major culprits in starting this type of fire.
There are special areas of concern when it comes to fire safety in apartment buildings. Families in apartment buildings live close together, affecting each others’ risks associated with fire. Landlords and tenants alike have a role to play in maintaining a fire-safe place to live.
In 2015, multi-family dwellings accounted for a total of 19.4 percent of residential structure fires in Kansas and they accounted for a statistically higher 32.6 percent of cooking fires. A full 55 percent of multi-family dwelling fires are cooking-related.
Balconies and porches are the top area of origin for smoking fires. Multi-family dwellings have a larger problem, with 37 percent of smoking fires happening on a balcony or porch. Often, these fires are caused by smoking materials discarded into potted plants or mulch. Both are flammable and cause smoldering fires.
Fire service and EMS
While the incidents of fire calls were reduced in 2015, the number of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) calls increased by 9,372 reported calls. Increasing EMS calls is a continued trend in the shifting workload of the Kansas fire service.
The full “Fires in Kansas” report is available for download at FireMarshal.ks.gov.
This information was provided by Kansas Office of the State Fire Marshal Public Information Manager Kevin Doel.