leading change: a society free from alcohol harm

Alcohol and fire

Alcohol is a key factor in fatal fires in Ireland with data showing that more than half of fire fatalities over a three year period were alcohol-related.

Research published by the Health Research Board in 2019 analysed all fire-related fatalities occurring during the years 2014–2016. The HRB report is the first time that data in relation to fire fatalities from all coroner sites in Ireland was analysed.

The study found that there were 106 fire-related fatalities recorded in inquests. Alcohol featured prominently with alcohol present on toxicology for 54 (51%) fatalities. Almost two thirds (64%) of those who were drinking had a blood alcohol concentration of more than three times the legal driving limit.

The HRB study also found that men were more likely to have alcohol in their system and were more likely to have a higher blood alcohol concentration.  Among men with high levels of alcohol in their blood, more than half were aged between 35-59 years.

These high blood alcohol levels in a significant number of fire fatalities draws attention to the negative impact of alcohol on fire-related mortality.

Research from other jurisdictions shows that alcohol often features in fire-related injuries and deaths.[1]  In a metaanalysis study involving 1,677 burn-related deaths, researchers found that approximately 40% of people who died were intoxicated.[2]

Additionally, UK research has found an increasing trend in alcohol-related burns.[3]

These findings all clearly highlight the growing burden of alcohol on health and the need for improved awareness on the impact of alcohol on fire-related mortality.

[1] Swenson JR, Dimsdale JE, Rockwell E, Carroll W, Hansbrough J. Drug and alcohol abuse in patients with acute burn injuries. Psychosomatics. 1991 Summer;32(3):287–93;

Bennett SP, Trickett RW, Potokar TS. Inhalation injury associated with smoking, alcohol and drug abuse: an increasing problem. Burns. 2009;35(6):882–7.

[2] Smith GS, Branas CC, Miller TR. Fatal nontraffic injuries involving alcohol: A metaanalysis. Ann Emerg Med. 1999;33(6):659–68.

[3] Holmes WJ, Hold P, James MI. The increasing trend in alcohol-related burns: it’s impact on a tertiary burn centre. Burns. 2010;36(6):938–43; Bennett SP, Trickett RW, Potokar TS. Inhalation injury associated with smoking, alcohol and drug abuse: an increasing problem. Burns. 2009;35(6):882–7.