Contribution of Upholstered Furniture to Residential Fire Fatalities in New Zealand
This report examines the features of fatal residential fire incidents involving upholstered furniture in New Zealand over the period of 1996 to 2000. Included in this report is an analysis of the New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS) Emergency Incident Statistics from 1995 to 1999. Further investigation was also undertaken based on information from the Fire Incident Reporting System (FIRS) data from 1996 to 2000. It was found that upholstered furniture was involved in 35.4% of all residential fire fatalities in a five-year period between 1996 to 2000. An analysis of common trends found in fatal residential fires involving upholstered furniture has also been included in this report. It was concluded that fatal residential fire incidents involving upholstered furniture typically resulted in a single fatality even though there was usually more than one person present in the residential structure when ignition occurred. Young children, the elderly and persons intoxicated by drugs or alcohol were particularly susceptible in such fires with most occupants asleep when ignition occurred. The most common cause of death for occupants remote from the room of fire origin was smoke inhalation while for occupants within the room of fire origin, it was from severe bums or exposure to heat and smoke from the fire. Smoke detectors were not present or defective in most of these incidents. Upholstered furniture was usually not the object first ignited, meaning that it was ignited later on in the fire by means of either small flame or large flame ignition sources. Other factors influencing fire fatalities in residential property were also discussed. Comparisons were made with similar studies done in other countries, namely the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia. Finally, conclusions were drawn from the results obtained. Recommendations and suggestions for future research were also included in this report.