Risk Factors and Incidence of Residential Fire Experiences Reported Retrospectively

Barnett, Michelle L (2008) Risk Factors and Incidence of Residential Fire Experiences Reported Retrospectively. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


The frequency of all residential fires that are attended by the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade is routinely recorded and hence well known. However, the frequency of residential fires which are not attended, including instances where the occupant of a dwelling has extinguished the fire or the fire has self-extinguished, has not previously been investigated in an Australian sample. This project includes two studies: in the first study the aim was to develop the Fire Safety Awareness and Experience Interview Schedule and to determine whether the risk factors for attended fires (in which there are fatalities or injuries) are different to the risk factors of residential fires not attended to by the fire brigade. Additionally, the first study aimed to determine the incidence of unattended residential fires by retrospective report from adults since the age of 18. The second study aim was to determine whether correct and regular maintenance behaviours were being carried out by occupants who own a smoke alarm. Five hundred participants, recruited from four shopping centers located in Melbourne, Victoria, completed the Fire Safety Awareness and Experience Interview Schedule. The questionnaire collected information on all residential fire experiences, including attended and unattended fires, since the age 18. Results showed that participants had approximately a 50% chance of experiencing either an attended or unattended residential fire within their adult lifetime; and the mean annual probability of having an unattended fire experience (0.8 fires per 100 adult years) was higher than the probability of having an attended fire experience (0.37 fires per 100 adult years). In addition, of all residential fires in which fire service attendance status was known, the vast majority of fires (78%) were unattended. Results also revealed the vast majority of unattended fires were caused when cooking was left unsupervised by the cook; and oil or food was usually the first material ignited. Of concern is the number of instances in which the unattended fire was extinguished via dangerous actions (i.e. moving the burning object the sink or floor of the home). It is therefore important to educate people on how to safely fight a cooking fire should one occur and occupants should be encouraged to have a fire blanket in an accessible location in their kitchens. Findings from Study Two revealed that the vast majority of the sample (96%) reported owning a smoke alarm. However, over one third of owners are not testing their alarms and 17% are not carrying out battery changes. Overall, the results from this project can be used to help prevent cooking fires in Australia and the developed interview schedule can be used to collect comparison data from other States and Territories. Furthermore, the development instrument can be used to collect unattended home fire data internationally.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/1987
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 380000 Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Keywords residential fire, risk factors, Fire Safety Awareness and Experience Interview Schedule, psychological factors, Victoria
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