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5 Most Common Causes of House Fires

5 Most Common Causes of House Fires

According to the U.S Fire Administration, in 2018 alone there were 379,600 residential fires, causing a monetary loss of over 8 BILLION dollars, and most importantly, 2,790 dead and over 11 thousand injured.

This is a shame to our great nation, and changing it starts with YOU. Each of us has to be responsible to take the necessary steps to keep our homes and families safe. It begins with understanding what causes residential fires in the U.S.

Most common causes of residential fires in the US are:

  • Cooking
  • Heating
  • Smoking
  • Candles
  • Faulty electrical wiring

Causes of Fires

1. Cooking fires

The number one cause of both reported and unreported house fires in the US, cooking often results in a fire when the stove is left unattended. People leave things simmering or roasting and forget about them or place flammable objects like rags or oven mitts close enough to the flame that they are set alight.

A few tips to avoid cooking fires are to use timers if slow cooking, roasting or simmering, to never leave the kitchen when using the stove, especially with frying since it could cause a grease fire and not cooking with an open flame when intoxicated or otherwise impaired.

Remember! If you choose to fight a grease fire, you need to smother it, water will only make it worse. Cover the pan with a lid and leave it until completely cooled. The same goes for oven fires! Keep the lid closed and just turn off the heat!

2. Heating

Most prevalent during the winter months, heating fires alone cause an average of 490 deaths per year. You should not leave any flammable objects closer than 3 feet from your heating equipment, always have your heaters professionally installed and use screens to prevent sparks from flying into the room when using a fireplace.

Always remember to test your smoke alarms, have your heaters and chimneys checked and cleaned by a professional every year, and finally, if you ever smell gas, DO NOT turn on your stove. Leave your home and call the fire department.

3. Smoking

Smoking kills in more than one way, as an average of 12 thousand house fires is started every year because of smoking materials like cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.

While not smoking at all is the healthiest choice, when it comes to avoiding fires simply making a switch to fireproof cigarettes and smoking outside can make a world of difference. Yet even then you might be at risk if you don’t put out your cigarette butts properly. Make sure to use a deep ashtray and always smother the embers.

NEVER throw cigarette butts into vegetation, not only is it bad for the environment, but it could start a much larger fire.

4. Candles

It’s pretty obvious how a candle can cause a fire if proper precautions are not taken, they can easily be tipped over and once that happens a house fire can break out in minutes.

The National Fire Prevention Association suggests not using candles at all or switching to flameless ones, but if you absolutely have to, they offer a few tips to keep you safe: For starters, never leave a candle unattended, if you’re leaving the room, blow it out. Make sure to use a wide, sturdy holder that can’t be knocked over and keep anything flammable at least a foot away from any open flames.

5. Faulty electrical wiring

You could make an entire article only about electrical fires (in fact, we did!) If you head over there, you’ll find a much more in-depth take on electric fires. I’ll stick to some general advice that can help anyone.

When moving into a new place, always have a professional check your wiring. Even if you’re renting, yes, it’s the landlord’s responsibility but I’d much rather spend a couple of bucks on checking my wiring, than a couple thousand on a lawyer and hospital bills. Furthermore, make sure to always plug major appliances directly to the wall, and always call a professional if your outlets are war or discolored.

How to be ready for a fire

Even if you do everything right, you still might find yourself facing a house fire someday, so it’s crucial that you’re prepared for the worst:

  • Always have an exit plan ready, practice it a few times every year. All your family members or housemates should be aware of how to get out in case of a fire, especially kids.
  • If you don’t have one, install a fire alarm system and smoke detectors. A house can go up in flames in minutes, so an early warning can quite literally save your life.
  • If you already have smoke detectors, test them often, at least twice a year. Make sure that they won’t fail you when you need them the most.
  • If you’re renovating your house, try to use fireproof materials, they might be a bit costly but it can make a huge difference.
  • Always have fire extinguishers in your home. Be aware that not all extinguishers are the same nor work for all fires.

Types of fire extinguishers.

There are 7 types of fires, each named for a letter of the alphabet. However, for most house fires, the culprits are the following:

Class A: Caused by flammable solids such as paper or wood
Class B: Caused by flammable liquids like petrol or paint
Class C: Fires fueled by flammable gasses such as CO2 or methane
Class F: Grease fires

Don’t worry though, you won’t have to shell out for four different extinguishers. Lucky for you, only two of them are needed.

The best types of fire extinguishers for house fires are:

1. Dry Foam/ ABC Extinguishers: These are labeled in blue and are often referred to as ABC, since they can put out fires of all three types (Ab, B, and C class fires). However, they are very hard to clean up after the fact, and their residue should not be inhaled.

2. Wet Chemical Extinguishers: These are designed for Class F fires, though they can also work for Class A fires. You should keep this one close to your kitchen, since its the most likely place for a grease fire.

Of course, remember that having an extinguisher means nothing if you can’t reach it in time before the fire spreads, so be wary of placement and consider investing in multiple ones if possible.

If worst comes to worst, just leave and call the fire department – your life is worth more than a house.


FEMA Fire Statistics