Rural Residents Twice as Likely to Die in Fires

house on fire 150

In case of fire, you're twice as likely to die if you happen to live in a small town.

According to a new report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in communities with populations 2500 or less, fire death rates were double those of larger communities (1997-2001). FEMA's report attributes the differences to several factors, but concludes "Poverty is more important than distance as a factor driving the higher fire risk in rural America."

Nearly 3/4 (73%) of rural residential fires happened in properties without working fire alarms, compared to 65% non-rural residences. In cities, arson is the major cause of residential fires. In small towns, hazardous heaters are the primary cause. "Poorer households in the South," says the report, "are the ones who find it most feasible to try to use space heating exclusively."

The study recommends that networks of existing local organizations — churches, health care offices, and the like — be tapped to deliver fire safety programs and equipment, because "rural households are slower to give trust to people."