Omkommet ved Brand

Translated title of the contribution: Perished in Flames

Research output: ThesisPh.D. thesis

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The dissertation consist of three parts.

The first part is a hypothesis generating case-only study of housefire accidents in Denmark in the periods 1953-57 and 1988-92. In these two periods 362 and 136 people died in accidental fires (death rates 6.1 and 14.1 per million inhabitants per year).  Most of the victims were alcoholintoxicated or disabled. There were many elderly people and chronic alcoholics among the victims, and many were unmarried and lived alone. The age-standardised mortality ratio for the last period was 189 when compared to the first period, so the increase in the number of fatal fires that occured in the period between 1953-57 and 1988-92 could only partly be explained by a change in the age distribution. The death rate due to fires caused by smoking five-doubbled in the period, and the number of alcoholintoxicated, chronic alcoholics and bodily infirm all increased significantly. In 1988-92 most lethal fires were caused by tobacco smoking (51%), cooking (10%) and candles (9%).

The second part of the dissertation is a hypotesis testing case-control study of fatal  fire accidents in private homes  in the  municipality of Copenhagen 1991-1995 with the fire accident as the study unit and the control group being selected among non-fatal fire accidents (65 cases and 130 controls).   The analysis was performed on the basis of a theoretical model in which the variables were part of a causal network. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to estimate the risk associated with each variable after adjusting for confounders. The analysis showed that the following five variables were associated with the highest risk of death in residential fire accidents: 1. Localization of the victim close to the source of ignition (OR=11), 2. Physical handicaps (OR=5), 3. Chronical alcoholism (OR=7), 4. Clothing fires (OR=24), 5.Alarm being given by a person not present at the scene of fire (OR=33).

It is concluded, that legislators should consider introducing fire classification regulations for furniture and for clothing. Warnings should be issued against smoking in bed. Smoking-aprons, smoking-devices, selfextinguishing cigarettes and use of fireproof materials in furniture and clothing may prevent ignition. Candles should be quality-tested and consumer guidance should be provided on the packaging.  Smokealarms may secure early warning.

The third part of the dissertation is a descriptive study of suicide by selfincineration in Denmark in 1980 - 1989. In this period 43 cases of fatal self-incineration took place in Denmark (11 cases in the first five years and 32 in the last five years).  None of the victims had a political or a religious motive. Most were suffering from mental illness, and a majority had tried to commit suicide before.

Translated title of the contributionPerished in Flames
Original languageDanish
  • Gregersen, Markil, Supervisor, External person
  • Sabroe, Svend, Supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationAarhus
Print ISBNs87-986857-0-8
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Accidents caused by fire
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Smoke poisoning


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