Structure fire

A structure fire in Massueville, Canada
A burned house

A structure fire is a fire involving the structural components of various types of residential, commercial or industrial buildings, such as barn fires. Residential buildings range from single-family detached homes and townhouses to apartments and tower blocks, or various commercial buildings ranging from offices to shopping malls. This is in contrast to "room and contents" fires, chimney fires, vehicle fires, wildfires or other outdoor fires.

Structure fires typically have a similar response from the fire department that include engines, ladder trucks, rescue squads, chief officers, and an EMS unit, each of which will have specific initial assignments. The actual response and assignments will vary between fire departments.

It is not unusual for some fire departments to have a pre-determined mobilization plan for when a fire incident is reported in certain structures in their area. This plan may include mobilizing the nearest aerial firefighting vehicle to a tower block, or a foam-carrying vehicle to structures known to contain certain hazardous chemicals.

Types (United States)

Remains of a structure fire on Cotton Avenue, Macon, GA, US. c.1876

In the United States, according to NFPA, structures are divided into five construction types for the purposes of firefighting, and are listed from least combustible to most combustible:

Type I: Fire ResistiveTypically used in high-rises. The material comprising the structure is either inherently able to withstand significant exposure to fire (concrete), or in which a fire resistive covering is applied to steel structural members.
Type II: Non-combustibleTypically used in strip shopping center malls. Roofs are constructed out of steel rafters.
Type III: Ordinary constructionBrick and mortar walls, wood frame floors. City rowhouses are where this type of construction is most often found.
Type IV: Heavy timberOften used in churches or other community-based buildings.
Type V: Wood frameTypically used in recent construction of single-family dwellings, townhouses, garden apartments with four floors or less.

Causes of house fires

In a recent study, conducted by American Survey CO, for the period of 2005 - 2010, the causes of house fires across America were as follows:

  • Appliances and electrical (stoves, microwaves, toasters, radiators, various heating systems, small appliances) - approximately 47%
  • Gas leaks - around 5-7%
  • Open flames (candles, fireplaces) - approximately 32%
  • Children playing with matches - Around 10%
  • Spreading of fires from house to house - approximately 3%


External links

Media related to Burning buildings at Wikimedia Commons

Media files used on this page

Ambox globe content.svg
A globe icon in the Ambox-content style. This icon is used for important issues relating to the world and for stating the bias of worldwide information.
Fire inside an abandoned convent in Massueville, Quebec, Canada.jpg
Author/Creator: Sylvain Pedneault, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
A photograph of a major fire.
This photograph was taken during a major fire involving an abandoned convent in Massueville, Quebec, Canada. The fire was so violent that firefighters had to focus their efforts on saving the adjacent church instead of attacking the involved building. This photograph is a good example of what can be done with specialized fire photography, as the public did not have access to this extraordinary point of view and it was necessary to have fire photographer credentials to take pictures from there.
Burned-out house in Spokane 2018.jpg
Author/Creator: Antony-22, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Burned-out house in Spokane, Washington in 2018