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January 16, 2012 -
According to recent statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, there were an average of 15,700 reported structure fires in high-rise buildings per year with an associated $235 million in direct property damage between 2005-2009.
Four property types make up 50 percent of the high rise fires cited, the greatest being apartment buildings at 44 percent. Hotels, medical facilities such as hospitals and doctor's offices, and general use offices each accounted for 2 percent.
Structure fires in these four property types resulted in $99 million in direct property damage per year. However, the risks of fire, fire death, and direct property damage due to fire tends to be lower in high-rise buildings than in shorter buildings of the same property use. And there is an overall downward trend in high-rise fires.
Some other findings of the report show that usage of wet pipe sprinklers and fire detection equipment is higher in high-rise buildings than in other buildings of the same property use and that most high-rise building fires begin on floors no higher than the 6th story. The risk of a fire is greater on the lower floors for apartments, hotels and motels, and facilities that care for the sick, but greater on the upper floors for office buildings.
Due to various factors, like the use of sprinkler systems, flame damage beyond the floor where the fire starts is very unusual in high-rise buildings.
When a high-rise fire fatally injures people who were not on the floor where the
fire began, the report says, usually part of the blame lies in failing to protect the stairwells or elevators. For example, if the door to the exit stairs is blocked open and allows smoke or fire to enter or if the enclosure of the stairs is non-compliant with code and allows smoke into the stairway.
The full report can be found here: http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/OS.HighRise.pdf