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Fire Statistics Scotland, 2000



27. Notes on statistics used in this bulletin

27.1 Responsibility for the Fire Service was transferred from the Home Office to the new Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) in June 2001. The statistics in this bulletin are compiled from reports submitted to the DTLR on fires attended by local authority fire brigades. Although a variety of Scottish fire statistics are currently published annually by the DTLR (see references below) this is the first time that detailed data for the eight Scottish fire brigades have been collated and reported by the Scottish Executive in the form of a dedicated Scottish fire statistics bulletin. This new bulletin is intended to provide a detailed overview of Scottish fire statistics over the past decade, at a brigade and Scotland level with comparison to the other UK regions. More detailed information is collected on all fires in buildings, vehicles and outdoor structures and any fires involving casualties or rescues - "primary" fires and more detailed information on these are presented in this bulletin. Less detailed aggregated information is collected on "secondary" and chimney fires' so subsequent analysis of them is limited. For definitions of the terms used in this bulletin, see paragraph 27.18 below.

Data for primary fires

27.2 The source of these data is the fire report form FDR1 (94) introduced from January 1994. The count specifically included two categories of fire related incident not recorded in the fire statistics from the early 1980s to 1993. These categories are described as late fire calls and heat and smoke damage only incidents:

  • "late fire calls" are fires not attended as an emergency because they are known to be extinguished when the call was made, or to which no emergency call was made;
  • heat or smoke damage only 'fires' - where no fire damage is reported (see definitions paragraph 27.18, for fuller explanation).

27.3 Analyses for 1994 and later years include both "late fire calls" and heat or smoke damage only 'fire'. Because of the way that these types of fire were processed in 1995, this involved some additional estimation for missing data.


27.4 A person whose death is attributed to a fire is counted as a fatality even if death occurred weeks or months later. The figures for fatalities are subject to revision as firstly death certificates are received from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) (and the Scottish and Northern Ireland Registrars General), which tends to increase the numbers and secondly as information provided by the Fire Service is forwarded to ONS etc. for confirmation that fire was the main cause of death. The latter leads to a decrease in the number recorded, particularly for fires involving road vehicles.

27.5 This publication contains the finalised figures for 1999 deaths following the death certificates exercise (described above). Based on the changes made to previous figures, estimates have been produced for the key 2000 figures. Due to the late receipt of information concerning the total number of fire related deaths occurring in 1998, this bulletin also contains some very minor revisions to the 1998 death figures.

27.6 A further data refinement exercise was undertaken in June 2000 to complete the revision exercise undertaken to the deaths information in 1998. The 2000 exercise resulted in some very minor changes to the information held on non-fatal casualties, rescues and the information held on the location of some fatal casualties for the years 1989 to 1993.

Malicious and accidental fires

27.7 Malicious fires include those where malicious or deliberate ignition is merely suspected, and those recorded by the brigade as "doubtful".

27.8 As a result of a review of the assessment of the motive of primary fires the classification of certain types of primary fires was changed from accidental to malicious, with effect from 1994. The effect appeared most noticeable for buildings fires, where an estimated 4,000 UK fires may have been categorised as malicious where they were previously classed as accidental. For example, the main change for fires in dwellings was those caused by 'playing' with fire - in particular if children were involved. Prior to 1994, it was assumed that they were caused accidentally. In 1994 it was estimated that 1,500 such fires would have been recorded as accidental in 1993. In buildings other than dwellings, the main change occurred for fires that spread to them from small (secondary) fires, where an estimated 2,000 were recorded as malicious instead of accidental. Within the malicious category, a higher proportion of fires were recorded as "doubtful" or "unspecified", rather than "ignition of other property". These changes affect comparisons before and after 1994, but do not affect comparison between 1994 and later years.

27.9 Data for malicious and accidental fires were further revised in 2000. The revised data corrected an error which resulted in a small distortion (about 3,500 UK fires) in the number of malicious and accidental fires for the years 1996 to 1998. This error meant that the number of accidental fires were under represented by about 3,500 in these years, whilst malicious fires were over represented by 3,500. The total number of primary fires (involving property or casualties) for these years was not affected.

False alarms

27.10 The marked changes between 1995 and 1996 in the numbers of false alarm calls for "good intent" and "due to apparatus" are partly the result of coding changes. Guidance clarifying false alarm calls to be included in the "due to apparatus" category as applied by some fire brigades has resulted in some false alarm calls being classified into this category rather than "good intent".

Selection of samples of primary fires, since 1994

27.11 The databases for 1994 to 2000 contain all casualties but only a sample of other fires. The samples were selected systematically for each brigade, with the following approximate sampling fractions: 1994 - 10 per cent; 1995 - 40 per cent, 1996 to 2000 - 20 per cent.

27.12 The data have all been weighted to agreed brigade totals. The detailed analysis of data other than for casualties, or fires involving casualties is based on estimates.

Statistical sample (of primary fires) confidence limits

27.13 The sample may well produce estimates, which differ slightly from figures, which would have been obtained if all forms (the population) had been examined. We can construct statistical confidence limits for each estimate at the 95 per cent level of significance. This means we can be confident that there is a 95 per cent chance that the limit contains the true population value of interest. The methodology for constructing confidence limits is shown below.

27.14 A parameter (R) from the fire incident population (N) will take the form of a proportion (P=R/N) with a particular attribute, for example the number of dwelling fires as a proportion of fires in all locations. Using the normal distribution approximations gives confidence limits for p as:


However, this normal approximation requires that;

(i) n << min (R,N-R)

(ii) min(nP,nQ) 30

(see COCHRAN, William G, 'Sampling Techniques', Wiley Publications 1977, (pp57-60) for details)

27.15 We cannot use the approximations safely if a proportion (p value) close to zero or one is being estimated. When the normal approximation does not apply, limits for p may be found from binomial tables (e.g. Fisher and Yates Statistical Tables (1957)).

An example for car fires

27.16 In 2000, there were 219,535 primary fire incidents in the UK, of which 74,707 primary fire incident forms were entered onto the database, 38,484 of which were for fires involving casualties and other types of fire where 100 per cent were coded (e.g. data received electronically from participating brigades) and 36,222 were other types of fire which only a sample were coded. Therefore, the 36,222 (n) sampled forms are based on a population of 219,535 - 38485 = 181,050 forms and the overall sampling fraction (f) was 20 per cent.

27.17 Calculating the 95 per cent confidence limits for fires in cars (81,912) gives a result of 978. Therefore, the number of UK car fires with 95 per cent confidence is between 80,934 and 82,890 .


27.18 From 1994, with the introduction of the fire report form DDR1 (94) some definitions were changed and clarified. The following list shows definitions applicable from 1994:

A reportable fire(no specific definition prior to 1994)

A reportable fire is an event of uncontrolled burning involving flames, heat or smoke and which the brigade attended.

Late fire call(no specific definition prior to 1994)

A fire known to be extinguished when the call was made (or which no call was made, e.g. a fire which comes to the attention of the brigade as a result of a press report or inquest) and the brigade attended.

Heat or smoke damage incidents(no specific definition prior to 1994)

These are reportable 'fires' where there is no fire damage. The damage reported may be due to any combination of heat, smoke and other which will include any water damage.


The type of premises, property or countryside in which the fire started. This in not necessarily the type of premises in which most casualties or damage occurred as a result of the fire.

Cause of fire

The defect, act or omission leading to ignition of the fire.


Includes fires where malicious or deliberate ignition is merely suspected, and recorded by the brigade as "doubtful". The group was described as "deliberate or possible deliberate" in fire statistics publications up to 1990".


Includes fires where the cause was not known or unspecified.

Source of ignition

The source of the flame, spark or heat that started the fire.

Spread of fire

The extent to which fire damage (as opposed to heat, smoke or other damage) spread, for example, beyond the room of origin.


All buildings including those under construction, but excluding derelict buildings or those under demolition. Prior to 1994 'buildings' were referred to as 'occupied buildings'.


Buildings occupied by households, excluding hotels, hostels and residential institutions. From 1988, mobile homes have been specifically included in the dwelling count. In 2000, the definition of a dwelling (for FDR1 purposes) was widened to include any non-permanent structures used solely as a dwelling, such as caravans, houseboats etc. (amounts to 0.3 per cent of the total number of UK dwelling fires). This change brings the definition of a dwelling more in line with that required under Best Value legislation. All analyses from 1994 to 1998 relating to dwellings were retrospectively revised to include the new categories of dwelling (prior to 1994 these categories were included in the dwelling count). Caravans, boats etc. not used as a permanent dwelling are shown according to the type of property (caravan, vehicle etc.).

Primary fires(no specific definition prior to 1994)

These are reportable fires (as listed below i) to vi) or any fires involving casualties, rescues, or fires attended by five or more appliances. An appliance is counted if either the appliance, equipment from it or personnel riding it, were used to fight fire.

(i) Buildings
(ii) Caravans
(iii) Vehicles and other methods of transport (not derelict)
(iv) Outdoor storage, plant and machinery
(v) Agricultural and forestry premises and property
(vi) Other outdoor structures including post boxes, tunnels, bridges etc.

Secondary fires

These are reportable fires that:

  • were not in primary fire locations (before 1994 defined as a list of locations)
  • were not chimney fires in buildings
  • did not involve casualties or rescues
  • were attended by four or fewer appliances. An appliance is counted if either the appliance, equipment from it or personnel riding on it, were used to fight the fire.

They are reported in less detail than other fires and consequently less information concerning them is available.

Chimney fires

These are reportable fires in occupied buildings:

  • where fire was confined within the chimney structure
  • that did not involve casualties or rescues
  • attended by four or fewer appliances.

Fatal Casualty

A person whose death is attributed to a fire is counted as a fatality even if death occurred weeks or months later - see paragraphs 27.4 to 27.6 for a more detailed discussion.

Non-Fatal Casualties

Non-fatal casualties consist of persons requiring medical treatment beyond first aid given at the scene of the fire, and those sent to hospital or advised to see a doctor for a check-up or observation (whether or not they actually do). People sent to hospital or advised to see a doctor as a precaution, having no obvious injury, are recorded as "precautionary check-up".

Non-brigade Casualties

Refers to fatal or non-fatal casualties involving persons who are not members of the fire brigade.

Brigade Casualties refer to fatal or non-fatal casualties involving fire brigade personnel.

Details of the main definitions and classifications that applied to data for the period 1978 to 1993 are set out in the publication "Fire Statistics United Kingdom 1993" (see source below). These are the definitions used during the period of the previous fire report form (FDR1).

Standard Industrial Classification (Trade or business)

27.19 In 1994, the classification of industrial fire locations was simplified. The new codes were based on the Standard Industrial Classification (Revised) (SIC) published by the Central Statistical Office but combined or added categories where relevant to fire risk. The aim is to identify the main trade or business carried on where the fire started. Comparisons with data for the period 1988 to 1993 are affected as follows:

  • "Mining and quarrying" replaces "Extraction of coal etc." and includes all mining and quarrying e.g. metal extraction.
  • "Metal manufacturing" and "Transport and vehicle manufacturing" replace "Metal manufacturing and extraction" (with extraction now included in "Mining and quarrying") and "Metal goods engineering and vehicle manufacture".
  • "Other manufacturing" includes office machinery and computers, electrical machinery, radio, television and communication equipment, medical, precision, optical, watch and clock manufacture and other not elsewhere specified, and replaces other manufacturing, and some "other unspecified" categories although the comparison may not be exact.
  • "Recycling" is a new category which was previously included in one of the "other" categories. Outdoor recycling points are included with "outdoor storage" and not as previously in "other".
  • "Retail Distribution" includes the sale and repair of goods which were previously included with sale and repair of motor vehicles. A new category for "sale and repair of motor vehicles" is shown separately in detailed tables. Also included in retail distribution is trading premises of bank and building societies which may have been previously included with financial intermediation.
  • "Recreational and other cultural services" now includes "places of worship" previously in "other".
  • "Children's and disable homes" excludes some other welfare establishments now in "other miscellaneous services".


27.20 Symbols used in the tables are:


Nil or less than half the final digit shown.


Not available/Not applicable


Provisional figures



Sources of fire statistics

27.21 Previous statistical publications on fires include:

UK Fire Statistics:

Fire Statistics, United Kingdom, 2000
Fire Statistics, Untied Kingdom, 1999 (issue number 20/00)
Fire Statistics, United Kingdom, 1998 (issue number 15/99)
Fire Statistics, United Kingdom, 1997 (issue number 25/98)
Summary Fire Statistics, Untied Kingdom, 1996 (issue number 1/98)
Summary Fire Statistics, United Kingdom, 1995 (issue number 8/97)
Summary Fire Statistics, United Kingdom, 1994 (issue number 13/96)

Up to and including data for 1993, detailed information on fires, including location, cause, spread and casualties was published by the Home Office in "Fire Statistics United Kingdom". Copies of the above publications can be downloaded from the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Region's website at http://www.safety.dtlr.gov.uk/fire/rds/index.htm

Scottish Fire Statistics:

HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services for Scotland Annual Report for 2000-01
HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services for Scotland Annual Report for 1999-00

The above publications report on the number of primary fires, secondary fires and casualties at brigade area/ Scotland level and are published by the Scottish Executive. Copies of the above publications can be downloaded from the Scottish Executive's website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/publications