suspicious fires caused the most damage to dormitories. Incendiary fires accounted for
more than two million dollars in property damage or 40 percent of the total dollars lost.
Between 1994 and 1998, there were an estimated 1,600 structure fires involving
school, college, and university dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses (NFPA,
2001). This resulted in $9.1 million in direct property damage. Eight fatalities are
known to have occurred during this period. According to Rohr, the leading cause of fire
in these occupancies was incendiary or suspicious causes. The second and third leading
causes of these incidents was cooking and smoking, respectively.
According to USFA (2001), dormitory fires cause less than five deaths,
approximately 50 injuries, and $4.1 million in property loss annually. Not surprisingly,
dormitory fires occur while schools are in session, between September and May. From
1996 to 1998, one third of dormitory fires were reported as arson. This was two and a
half times greater than the incidence of arson in all residential structures. Cooking, the
leading cause of residential fires, was the second leading cause in dormitory fires.
Smoking was the third leading cause of dormitory fires. Yet, the incidence of smoking as
a cause of fires in dormitories was more than twice that in residential fires.
Bryan (1997) analyzed two sets of data compiled by the National Fire Protection
Association. The first set published in 1955 was based on fires that occurred from 1944
to 1954. The second set of data published in 1995 covered fires that occurred from 1990
to 1994. Bryan found significant upward trends in incendiary and suspicious fires in the
latter period. These causes constituted ten percent of fire causes in 1955. In 1995, the
incidence of arson jumped to 30 percent.