National Center Quick-Look

Accidental Deaths of Children due to Fireplay

Collect: The National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention collects information on accidental deaths of children due to fire in the National Fatality- Review Case Reporting System (NFR-CRS).

Data: From 2004-2016, child fatality teams reviewed deaths of 1,479 children ages 1-14 who died in accidental fires. Fireplay was responsible for 175 (12%) of the deaths. This Quick-Look focuses on these 175 fireplay deaths.1

Learn: To see other Quick-Looks and learn more, visit the National Center’s website at

What is fireplay? Children playing with fire or fire-starting materials such as matches, lighters, and other fire sources (like candles).



43% Non-Hispanic White
37% Non-Hispanic Black
12% Hispanic
8%  Other

64% 1-4 years old
26% 5-9 years old
10% 10-14 years old

Incident Details
Place: 90% of fireplay deaths occurred in the child’s or a relative’s home
Time of Day: 61% of fireplay deaths occurred at night (10pm-7am)
Supervision: 49% of children who died were not supervised at the time of the fire
Number of deaths: 49% of fireplay deaths involved more than 1 child

Fire Characteristics

49% Nearly half of deaths occurred in single family homes, and 43% occurred in apartments, duplexes, or mobile homes

59% Over half of deaths occurred in rental properties

43% Two-fifths of deaths occurred in a structure with a smoke alarm present

34% One- third of deaths occurred in fires where a barrier prevented exit (locked or blocked door or window);

79% In nearly four-fifths of deaths someone attempted to put out the fire

Compared to fire deaths that were not related to fireplay (n-1303), children who died in fires caused by fireplay (n=175) were:

3X as likely to be younger (between 1- 4 years of age)
2X as likely to be male
9X as likely to be unsupervised
2X as likely to have an open Child Protective Services case at time of death

Prevention Resources

National Fire Protection Association

United States Fire Administration

Safe Kids Worldwide

To learn more about children who died in fires caused by fireplay see “Social and demographic characteristics and the contribution of fireplay to fire-related mortality in the US, 2004-2016” published in the American Journal of Preventative

National Center for Fatality Review & Prevention Supporting Fetal and Infant Mortality Review and Child Death Review Teams There are many ways to stay in touch with the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention:

Phone:  800.656.2434

This quick look was made possible in part by Cooperative Agreement Numbers UG7MC28482 and UG7MC31831 from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) as part of an award totaling $1,099,997 annually with 0 percent financed with non-governmental sources. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

1These deaths have been reviewed and recorded into the NFR-CRS by participating fatality review teams. Some percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

These data represent a smaller percent of the cases entered into the NFR-CRS. For more information about the data contained in this Quick-Look, please visit