There are certain factors that make buildings in New York City more likely to have a fire, including average neighborhood income, the age of the building, and whether it has electrical issues. The city's Fire Department has now catalogued 60 of these factors in a database that ranks buildings in order of their risk of fire, using the results to decide which ones get inspected first.

The new method aligns with a national trend toward using big data to make city services more efficient. Boston uses a similar system to identify which properties should get visits from the police, for example.

In the past, New York's firefighters made sure to hit high-priority buildings like schools and libraries more frequently. But other than that, inspections were almost random. The new system should reduce the number of fires and make fires less severe, according to the fire department.