Smoke alarms are not designed to prevent fires. It is therefore not possible to make a causal link between the number of dwelling fires and smoke alarm ownership. The alarms are designed to alert people to the presence of a fire and thereby prevent deaths and injuries.
The percentage of households with a smoke alarm increased from 8 per cent. in 1988 to 83 per cent. in 2000. There were 64,200 primary dwelling fires in 1988. By 2000 the number of primary dwelling fires had increased to 70,900. However, the number of deaths in accidental dwelling fires fell from 661 in 1988 to 397 in 2000.