There is a traditional perception that manufactured housing is more vulnerable to fire than other forms of single-family housing.
The fact is that manufactured homes are no more prone to fire than homes built on site, according to an annual report released by the Oklahoma State Fire Marshall's office.
Similar studies have echoed the above statement made by the Foremost Insurance Company. A national fire safety study conducted by the Foremost Insurance Company shows that site-built homes are more than twice as likely to experience a fire than manufactured homes. According to this study, the number of home fires is 17 per 1,000 for site-built homes, while only eight per 1,000 for manufactured homes.
What caused the improved fire safety of manufactured homes? Strict construction standards. Foremost Insurance Company's marketing research department took an in-depth look into the fire frequencies of manufactured homes built before the advent of HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) construction and safety standards, as well as homes built after the standards went into effect in 1976. Foremost's researchers found that post-HUD constructed manufactured homes burn less often and have lower fire losses than pre-HUD homes.
Richard Wettergreen, Assistant Vice President, Marketing Communications and Research at Foremost Insurance Company said, "Manufactured homes are the only homes with a national building code. The fire study indicates that HUD standards, adopted in 1976, have a positive effect on fire safety in manufactured housing. When construction methods and standards are considered, it appears to be a distinct and safe advantage to live in a factory-built home. It's time the myth of high fire potential in manufactured housing is laid to rest once and for all."
Some resistant features of the HUD code include strict standards for flame spread and smoke generation in materials, egress windows in all bedrooms, smoke detectors and at least two exterior doors, which must be remote from each other and reachable without passage through other doors that are lockable. Site-built homes are required to have only one exterior door and no "reachability" requirement.
Another report entitled, "Fire Experience in Manufactured Homes," by Dr. John R. Hall, Jr., which appeared in the May/June 1992 National Fire Protection Association Journal, concluded that manufactured homes built to HUD standards present a much lower risk of death and a significantly reduced risk of injury in fires than units that were not built to HUD code requirements. The study showed that in fires occurring between 1980 and 1989 that the fire death toll per 100 fires in post-HUD homes is two-thirds to three-fourths lower than pre- HUD homes. The fire injury is approximately one-third lower than pre-HUD homes for the same period of time.
Even though the frequency of manufactured home fires is less than that of site-built homes, the manufactured home fire is usually more severe. "Manufactured homes tend to be smaller properties than other homes... This means the median room sizes were much smaller in manufactured homes." said Dr. John R. Hall, Jr. Fires can spread more quickly in smaller-sized manufactured homes and site-built homes. Another explanation of these more severe fires is that there is a significantly higher percentage of manufactured homes in rural areas than in urban areas, while the percentage of site-built homes is much higher in urban areas than in rural areas. A fire in a home located in a rural area has a greater chance of becoming a "total fire" because of the increased amount of time needed for fire equipment to reach the home, since it may be outside a fire protected zone.