2019 Fire Trends: Most Common Property Types in Fire Calls

ESO Staff

Over the course of a year or several months, you may have a general idea of the most common types of calls your fire department encounters. You may find yourself more often in the same part of town or seeing patterns in your fire calls. If you’ve ever wondered the statistics of the most common types of properties across the nation and how it compares with your department, you don’t want to miss the most recent report from ESO.

Each year, ESO analyzes fire data to create the ESO Fire Trends paper, a free resource that offers insight into the most pressing trends facing fire agencies in the U.S. The goal of the publication is to assist fire agencies in setting more meaningful performance metrics, comparing themselves to peers, setting the stage for future conversations and challenges, and inspiring agencies to use their own data to bring about real improvement.

The 2019 ESO Fire Trends Report used data compiled from 244 fire departments and 638,979 calls, from January 1, 2019-June 30, 2019. From this data, five key topics were researched, including the most common property types encountered during fire responses. Using this information, a fire agency can not only see how its own stats compare but can help make plans for process improvement.

Most Common Property Types Involved

In 2017, there were approximately 136 million housing units in the U.S., so it’s no surprise the most common property types that fire departments respond to for fire calls are housing units – whether one or two-family units or multifamily units. One or two-family units accounted for 34.6 percent of all fire calls (100-series), while multifamily units accounted for 10.5 percent of fire calls. Together, they accounted for nearly half of all fire calls at 45.1 percent.

The full breakdown of calls showed:

  • 34% were One- or two-family dwelling unit (series 419)
  • 10.5% were Multifamily dwelling (series 429)
  • 5.8% were Open land or field (series 931)
  • 5.3% were Highway or divided highway (series 961)
  • 4.9% were Vehicle parking area (series 965)
  • 3.7% were Residential street, road, or driveway (series 962)
  • 2.8% were Street, other (series 960)
  • 2.7% were Residential, other (series 400)
  • 2.6% were Outside or special property, other (series 900)
  • 2.5% were Vacant lot (series 936)

Using this information, an agency can adjust various aspects of its daily operations to be more prepared for its most common types of calls. For example, recommended actions include:

Increase Outreach

According to stats released during National Fire Prevention Week, members of the community are actually more likely to die in a home fire today than they were three decades ago, and the current fire death rate is actually 10 percent higher than it was in 1980. Improving education within your community can make a real impact on the number and severity of fire emergencies. Conduct free fire alarm installation programs, distribute pamphlets about the most common causes of residential fires, visit school classrooms and host community education classes. You can also make your programs even more targeted by looking at which areas of your community have the most fire calls and add additional classes there.

Leverage Your Inspections

When new apartment buildings are being constructed, your department is most likely involved in the inspection process. This provides your team with the perfect chance to get to know the properties in your community, and also gives you a chance to eliminate violations during construction phase. You can also consider using your inspection records to create brief (1-2 page) summaries that can be made available for first-responding units to get information on the site quickly. Include information such as entrance point, hazardous materials, and fire suppression system type.

Make Records More Complete and Accessible

Today’s top fire inspection software makes collecting and sharing property information more efficient than ever, meaning more efficient and safer responses. For example, you can set up progressive forms that ensure your inspectors record the same information at every site, using the same terminology, and even take photos and schedule appointments from their handheld devices. Additionally, these digital records can be shared with your other operating software (no redundant data entry), and accessed in real time by responding crews and incident command. This can mean better plans, from where to park onsite to how to avoid hazardous materials, to knowing which residents require assistance evacuating.

Improve Training

Now that you know the most common types of properties your team will be encountering, you can use that information to make more specific training opportunities. Consider more real-world settings and mixing up your training exercises that focus on residential and multifamily properties. You can use your inspection records to set up some outlier situations, too, such as a property with hazardous materials or evacuating residents with mobility challenges. Consider spending extra time training your team on special issues related to residential properties, such as treating children or the elderly (the two groups considered most “at risk” for fatal home fires).


Being more aware of the properties you’ll most like be responding to can make your department more prepared, and in turn, more successful and safer. To learn more about the four other data topics covered in the 2019 ESO Fire Trends, download the report now.

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