Estimating the total number of residential fire-related incidents and underreported residential fires in New South Wales, Australia

Ms Nargess Ghassempour1,2, Dr Kathy Tannous1,3, Dr Gulay Avsar1, Dr Kingsley Agho3,4, Dr Lara Harvey5,6

1School of Business, Western Sydney University, Parramatta, Australia, 2Rozetta Institute, The Rocks, Australia, 3Translational Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, Campbelltown, Australia, 4School of Health Sciences, Western Sydney University, Penrith, Australia, 5 Fall, Balance and Injury Research Centre, Neuroscience Research Australia, Randwick, Australia, 6 School of Population Health, University of New South Wales, Kensington, Australia


In Australia, residential fire poses a significant burden with around 18,000 residential fire incidents reported in 2020, with 7000 of these reported in New South Wales (NSW). However, it is well recognised that there is considerable underreporting of fire incidents as official figures are based on fires reported to fire response agencies only. This population-based study aimed to quantify the total number of residential fire incidents, irrespective of reporting status.

The cohort comprised linked person-level data from Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW), health system (ambulance, hospital, emergency department, burn outpatient clinic) and death records. It included all persons residing at a residential address in NSW that experienced a fire between 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2014. The capture-recapture method was used to estimate the underreported number of residential fire-related incidents.

Over the study period, 43,707 residential fire incidents were reported to FRNSW, and there were 2,795 residential fire-related health service utilisations, of which 2,380 were not reported. The total number of residential fire incidents was estimated at 26,782 to 31,972 incidents per year. The unreported residential fire incidents occurred mainly in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas among males and adults.

This study found that only 15% of residential fire-related incidents that were identified in health administrative datasets were reported to FRNSW, and residential fire incidents are more than six times the official records.  This highlights the significant burden posed by residential fires and the imperative for ongoing development of effective policies and prevention strategies to mitigate residential fire risk.


Nargess Ghassempour is a PhD student from Western Sydney University with a focus on risk factors associated with residential fire incidents as well as health impact and economic cost of health utilisation services. Nargess holds a bachelor’s degree (honours) in Electrical engineering from Western Sydney University and in her previous research she adopted image processing and machine learning techniques to detect fire in images

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