During the late 1970s, a statewide system for burn treatment and prevention was developed in Maine; it was assumed that such a system would reduce mortality and morbidity rates. To examine the effect of this intervention and the validity of its underlying hypothesis, data for the period from 1973 to 1988 were collected from burn unit registries inside and outside of the state and from hospital discharge abstracts, death certificates, and published sources. In Maine, the annual number of deaths per million persons that resulted from fire- and burn-related injuries declined from 41 in the years 1973-1980 to 25 in the years 1981-1988, which is a significantly greater decrease than for the United States as a whole (p less than 0.001). This decrease could not be explained by changes in the age or urban and rural distribution of the population. The annual number of hospital admissions for treatment of burns (per million persons) in Maine decreased from 401 to 301 over the same period, and patients with more complicated burns were increasingly referred to more specialized centers within and outside of the state. Since a state system was instituted, hospital mortality rates, when grouped by age and burn area, were not significantly different from those reported by the most prominent burn unit in New England. The population-based methods of data collection and linkage that were developed for this investigation may be useful for other studies of injury epidemiology. A statewide burn program appears to have contributed to a reduction in mortality and morbidity rates, primarily through preventive efforts.