Fire Risks Facing Insecurely & Vulnerably Sheltered Populations in the United States:
A Working Paper

While the increase in risk associated with social vulnerabilities of persons and communities exposed to various hazards has been broadly studied, in particular for natural hazards, this is not the case for fire, especially for people who are insecurely and vulnerably sheltered in the United States. Much of the data and research regarding building fire risk seems focused on population groups that are housed in nominally code-compliant constructed buildings, meaning the buildings are broadly code compliant, at least at the time of construction. At present, little is known about insecurely and vulnerably sheltered populations living in under-regulated, unregulated, and non-sheltered conditions and experiencing high incidence rates of fire and severe fire consequences in the United States.  

A research effort was started in 2021 aimed at understanding the relationship between fire vulnerability of shelters, fire vulnerability of persons in those shelters, the extent to which regulation (construction, operation and maintenance) impacts the fire resilience of the shelter, and how these factors interact. The purpose of this Working Paper is to present an initial framing of these issues, present a taxonomy to begin describing the problem, and to begin to explore the breadth and depth of research and action needed to deeply understand, and ultimately to address fire risk and safety issues experienced by insecurely and vulnerably sheltered populations in the United States.  

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In this Working Paper, preliminary taxonomies and relationships between shelter type, human and socio-economic vulnerabilities, and fire risk are presented. In the next phase of this project, existing data will be explored in more detail, and a desktop review will be conducted of the policy context of under-regulated and unregulated shelter in the US at the national level and in relation to specific town/city/state case studies (as identified in the literature). Data and policies on homelessness will also be reviewed to develop insights to fire challenges facing populations living in unregulated shelters and non-sheltered conditions. Based on the collective evidence and insights from data collection and analysis, a research roadmap will be proposed to promote a systematic approach to collecting evidence and insights on this complex, under researched area. Recommendations for any policy interventions or other opportunities for practical action to support fire safety improvements will also be shared.  

A Look Back at Kindling's First Year
First Annual Review Report


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'Fire from the Dragon' 
Docummentary produced by Justin Sullivan in collaboration with the Western Cape Government to raise awareness of informal settlement fires in South Africa and some of the actions being taken to reduce fire risks.  Accessible here


European Fire Safety Community

Digital Summit 2020 - “Envisaging a Fire Safety Rating Scheme for Buildings”

Recording of breakout session

Does fire discriminate? A social justice approach to fire safety

2020 Global Shelter Cluster (GSC) Annual Meeting Session co-hosted by Kindling and Save the Children International

Recording of session

Strategizing Fire Safety in

Shelter & Settlements 


Arup event for which our founder, Danielle Antonellis was a panellist

Recording of session

Shocks + Stressors: A conversation about COVID, social justice, and climate

PyroLife International Symposium 2020 on Integrated Fire Management

Shifting Paradigms to Address Fire Safety Inequalities, Danielle Antonellis

Blog on event by Hugo Lambrechts