6 Most Common Causes of House Fires
The consequences of a house fire are devastating. Even assuming that loss of life and personal injury is avoided, the destruction of property and personal effects can have a vast and lifelong impact on people’s lives.
Most house fires are preventable, requiring just a little care, safety measures, and sensible protocols.
Below, we cover the most common causes of house fires so that you know what to look out for and the danger zones in your home. You’ll also find essential safety tips to take to keep everyone and everything in the home safe.
6 Leading Causes of House Fires
As many as 400,000 house fires occur every year across the US. Many of these are avoidable, and knowing the most common causes of house fires can help you to take proactive and preventative measures.
1. Cooking Fires
Cooking fires are the leading cause of house fires in the US. Cooking fires account for just under half of all house fires.
Commonly, food or cooking tools catch fire, usually because the kitchen is unattended or a child or pet has caused the incident.
Smoking ranks high on the list of house fire causes and has a higher incidence of loss of life than other fire starters.
Dropping a lit cigarette or being careless when disposing of a cigarette butt can quickly cause a severe fire.
3. Christmas Trees
Christmas trees are a perfect source of an inferno. The combination of dry twigs and sticks plus artificial materials can give off toxic fumes that, when sparked by a string of lights, creates the perfect fire starter.
Candles account for around 18,000 house fires every year in the USA. Most of these fires result from an unattended candle, either because the person has left the room or fallen asleep.
Candles should always be placed away from soft furnishings and fabrics like curtains and in a stable container that catches melting wax. Trim the wick of the candle to reduce the size of the flame.
There are very realistic electronic alternatives to regular wax candles, which reduce the fire risk to virtually zero.
5. Faulty Appliances
Overusing appliances can easily cause a fire. Other hazards include appliances that do not get regularly maintained or serviced.
Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines about correct usage. Don’t dry clothes on or near heaters. Check appliances regularly and replace any that are old or not performing consistently.
6. Electrical Systems and Devices
Old and poorly maintained electrical systems can lead to house fires. Common triggers are poorly connected circuits, loose wires, and improper grounding.
Electrical devices can short-circuit or spark faulty connections, leading to a live current that will quickly start a fire. Because many electrical outlets and power strips are in bedrooms and living areas with many flammable materials, they can ignite house fires very quickly.
Fire Prevention and Safety Measures
While the hazards in the home are a cause of concern, there are some very simple steps any householder can take to protect their home.
Don’t Leave the Kitchen Unattended
Around 49% of home structure fires occur because food or a cooking utensil catches alight. Always keep the cooking process under supervision, especially if children and pets are in the household. Keeping an eye on open flames will significantly reduce the risk of a house fire.
Don’t Smoke Inside
If you want to smoke, then smoke outside. Set up a designated smoking area that is dry and comfortable to reduce the temptation to smoke inside the house.
Have a safe and designated receptacle to dispose of used cigarette butts to avoid igniting fires around the home in areas with dry grass or other flammable materials.
Trim Christmas Trees
If you use a real tree, always cut off any dead or dried wood before bringing it into the house.
Keep the tree hydrated by watering it regularly and placing it in an incredible part of your home, not next to a radiator or in a hot room, as this will dry it out.
Check your tree lights thoroughly before you install them. Always turn off the lights when you are not home—yes, it is nice to come home to the tree all pretty in the window, but it is a significant fire risk. Don’t leave the lights on overnight.
Artificial trees are a safer and often more eco-friendly option. They come in a variety of sizes for even the most compact homes.
Supervise Children and Pets
Be super vigilant if you have children and pets. Keep matches and lighters out of reach, and don’t have candles lit. Always be aware of the location of appliances and open fires, and don’t leave children or pets alone.
Christmas trees are a major draw for children, so they should always be located in an area where it is easy to keep an eye on them. Pets can also pull down trees, particularly if you have edible decorations.
Educate children from the earliest age about the dangers of fire but don’t rely on this; leave them unattended with a potential fire source or get lax about matches or lighters – always put them out of reach.
Switch Off and Unplug at Night
Try and get into the habit of doing a walk around before bedtime, switching off any devices, and unplugging them. Unplugging is a great way to minimize fire risk while asleep and save money on your energy bills.
Install Smoke Alarms, Fire Alarms, or Sprinkler Systems
Installing an early warning system takes fire protection one step further. There are numerous different types of systems that you can install. Most companies offer a free home assessment and can tailor a package to your particular house and risk factors.
That said, alarms should merely supplement other home safety systems. The National Fire Protection Association recommends home fire sprinklers as the best solution to protect residential and commercial properties.
These systems become activated when smoke is present. They offer the most robust protection, particularly in homes with vulnerable people, such as children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Awareness of the most common causes of fires and taking a few simple, precautionary steps can save you and your family from the devastating consequences of a fire in your home.
Fire and smoke alarms plus sprinkler systems can reduce that risk even further.
Good fire safety protects human and animal life and valued possessions while minimizing the impact on firefighters who risk their lives extinguishing house fires every year.