What is the typical temperature of a house fire?

House fires are a serious threat to life and property in the United States. According to Residential Fire Estimate Summaries – U.S. Fire Administration, there were an average of 358,300 home structure fires per year from 2012-2021, resulting in an annual average of 2,620 civilian deaths, 12,320 civilian injuries, and $7.4 billion in direct property damage. Understanding the typical temperature of a house fire can help illustrate why house fires are so destructive and dangerous.

Common Causes of House Fires

House fires are often caused by human error and neglect. According to State Farm, cooking is the leading cause of house fires, responsible for nearly half of all reported house fires in the United States each year. Electrical malfunctions are another very common cause of house fires. Faulty electrical wiring, overloaded circuits, and old wiring can lead to electrical fires. Other common causes include smoking materials, arson, and portable heaters.

Cooking fires often start due to unattended food or grease on the stove. It’s important to stay in the kitchen when cooking, keep anything flammable away from the stove, and make sure to turn off the stove when finished cooking. Electrical fires can be prevented by having wiring inspected and replaced if old or damaged. Smoking should always be done outdoors and smoking materials fully extinguished. Portable heaters should be kept away from flammables and never left on unattended according to First Alert.

While house fires can be devastating, being aware of the common causes and taking preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk of fire in the home.

Fire Development

According to School of Fire Protection Engineering, there are four main stages of fire development: ignition, growth, fully developed, and decay.

The growth stage begins once ignition has occurred. At this stage, the fire begins to spread rapidly as it consumes nearby fuel sources. Heat release and flame height increase dramatically during this phase. According to the Congressional Fire Services Institute, fire doubles in size every 30 seconds during growth stage.

The fire reaches the fully developed stage once most surfaces and objects in the vicinity are alight. At this point, heat release and flame height reach their maximum. The temperature is extremely high, smoke production is heavy, and flashover may occur, where all surfaces ignite nearly simultaneously due to intense radiant heat. According to the Firehouse article, temperatures can exceed 1100°F during this stage.

Finally, the fire enters decay stage as available fuel is consumed. Heat release, flame height, and temperature begin to decrease. The fire eventually burns out or is extinguished at the end of this stage.

Factors Affecting Temperature

There are several key factors that influence the temperature of a house fire:

Fuel Load

The amount and type of combustible materials in a home has a major impact on fire temperatures. Homes filled with synthetic furnishings and flammable liquids burn hotter and faster. More open floor plans allow fire to spread rapidly throughout the fuel load.


Ventilation refers to the amount of oxygen available to the fire. Fires burn hotter and faster when fully ventilated with plenty of oxygen. Closed doors or broken windows limit ventilation and lower temperatures.

Structure Materials

The materials used to construct the home also affect the intensity of a fire. Metal framing and masonry burn slower than wood framing. Insulation and hollow spaces allow fire spread unseen throughout walls and ceilings.

Average Temperatures

During a typical house fire, temperatures can reach extremely high levels. According to https://rainbowrestores.com/blog/how-hot-do-property-fires-get, at eye level temperatures often reach around 600 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than the highest setting on most household ovens. Meanwhile, temperatures at the ceiling can soar to 1500 degrees or more.

As noted on https://www.ready.gov/home-fires, room temperatures during a fire start at around 100 degrees Fahrenheit at floor level during the early stages. But they rapidly climb to 600 degrees at eye level and upwards of 1500 degrees near the ceiling as the fire spreads and intensifies.

So in summary, average temperatures during a typical house fire range from 100-600 degrees Fahrenheit at lower levels, while ceiling temperatures can exceed 1500 degrees F.

Temperature Variations

Temperatures vary greatly during different stages of a house fire. In the early stages, the temperature may start at around 100-200°F near the floor as the fire begins to spread (https://darwinsdata.com/what-is-the-typical-temperature-of-a-house-fire/). As the fire grows, temperatures rapidly climb to 500-600°F. According to the NFPA, room temperatures can reach 100°F at floor level and rise to 600°F at eye level in a developing fire (https://www.ready.gov/home-fires).

Once flashover occurs, temperatures will surge to between 900-1200°F. Flashover is the stage when all combustible surfaces in a room ignite nearly simultaneously. Peak temperatures in a fully involved house fire can exceed 1200°F (https://darwinsdata.com/what-is-the-typical-temperature-of-a-house-fire/). Temperatures also vary depending on the type of room. For example, fires in bedrooms tend to burn cooler than in a kitchen with nearby combustible oils.

Impact on Occupants

The high temperatures during a house fire can have devastating effects on human health and survival. According to research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, exposure to extreme heat from fires is associated with increased cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, dehydration, acute renal failure, heat illness, and mental health effects. The human body can only withstand a narrow temperature range, and exposure to extreme heat places great stress on bodily systems.

Specifically, temperatures above 95°F with high humidity begin entering the danger zone for the human body. At 104°F, heat cramps and heat exhaustion become likely if cooling methods like hydration are not properly managed. At 115°F, heat stroke becomes a high risk. Human cells start to break down, and organs like the brain, heart, kidneys and liver can be severely damaged. At 140°F, the human body cannot dissipate heat fast enough and skin pain and burns develop quickly. According to research from Boston University, temperatures above 200°F cause almost instant death as cells are damaged and proteins denature. Overall, the extreme heat from house fires threatens human health through heat stress, thermal burns, smoke inhalation, and toxic gasses. Rapid evacuation and emergency medical care are critical for survival.

Impact on Structure

Structural steel begins to lose its strength at temperatures above 300°C, with significant loss of strength occurring from 500°C. According to research by Rackauskaite et al., steel loses about 50% of its strength at 550°C and nearly all of its strength above 700°C. Complete failure can occur between 800-900°C (Rackauskaite, 2019).

At 500°C, structural steel retains approximately 60% of its room temperature yield strength and 40% of its stiffness (AISC, 2011). As temperatures increase beyond 500°C, the steel quickly loses strength and stiffness. Most structural steels will fail if heated to temperatures exceeding 593°C (AISC, 2011).

Encasing steel columns in concrete or spraying them with a siliceous aggregate coating are ways to improve fire resistance. The concrete or coating provides insulation to prevent the steel from reaching critical temperatures that would cause failure. Gypsum wallboard is also an excellent fire-resistant material due to its endothermic dehydration reaction.

Firefighter Protective Gear

Firefighters wear specialized protective gear and equipment to shield themselves from the intense heat of structural fires. This includes a helmet, coat, pants, boots, gloves, hood, and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).

The outer shell of the coat and pants is made of a heat-resistant material like Nomex or PBI fiber that provides thermal protection by reflecting radiant heat. Thick layers of insulating batting or moisture barrier liners underneath prevent conductive heat from penetrating and causing burns. Fireproof boots, gloves, and hoods protect other exposed areas.

SCBA includes a full facepiece mask with a regulated air supply that prevents inhalation of superheated gases and smoke. The mask has a special heat-reflective visor to protect firefighters’ eyes and face. Using the proper protective gear, firefighters can withstand short-term exposure to temperatures exceeding 500°F inside a burning building.


In summary, the typical temperature of a house fire can range widely, but averages around 1,100°F in a fully developed uncontrolled fire. The exact temperature depends on factors like the composition and layout of the home, ventilation, and what is fueling the flames. While flashover can briefly spike temperatures above 2,000°F, sustained temperatures tend to peak around 1,500-1,600°F once flashover subsides. These extreme heat levels pose immense danger to occupants and firefighters. Protective gear is essential, but has limits. Understanding the typical fire temperatures and their variability gives crucial perspective on fire risks. House fires burn hot enough to cause severe damage, highlighting the importance of prevention and caution.