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Common causes and prevention of house fires

An unintentional fire can start with frightening randomness, spread uncontrollably in seconds, and completely destroy a property in minutes. House fires put everyone in the house in danger, and even tiny fires that are quickly put out can cause thousands of dollars in damage. Having the right insurance coverage in place can help lessen the financial damages caused by a house fire, but it’s far preferable to avoid the situations that cause fires in the first place.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 350,000 residential fires occur in the United States each year, resulting in more than 2,500 deaths.

Flames can start in a variety of ways, but they usually fall into one of two categories: fires generated by heat igniting combustible materials or fires generated by chemical reactions. There are many objects and materials in your home that can catch fire if the appropriate conditions exist. Some of the common causes of house fires are well-known, while others may come as a surprise. Identifying and reducing these risks reduces the likelihood of a house fire, protecting your family and property.

Fires Caused by Cooking

Cooking fires are one of the most prevalent types of home fires, accounting for nearly half of all residential fires.

Grease that has got overheated on a stove or in an oven is a common cause. When grease gets heated enough (about 600 degrees Fahrenheit on average), it becomes very flammable and can spontaneously combust even without direct flame contact. It’s incredibly tough to put out grease fires once they’ve started.

When cooking with oil or a product that creates fat, such as bacon, never leave the kitchen unattended. The majority of kitchen fires happen when a homeowner leaves food cooking on a burner or in an oven unattended. It’s frequently too late by the time the fire is found. Clean your cookware thoroughly to avoid grease buildup over time.

Toasters and electric griddles, for example, are portable cooking tools that might cause fires. Always keep an eye on these portable gadgets and make sure they’re cool to the touch before putting them away. Toasters should be cleaned on a regular basis to remove crumbs that could ignite if they accumulate inside the appliance.

Barbecue grills left unattended on a wooden deck or near the outer walls of a home during the outdoor cooking season can also be a cause of fire. When a heated grill is placed too close to a wooden fence, it can easily catch fire, and grills have been known to burn the external walls of a home or garage.

Turning off the heat and smothering the fire with a metal lid will swiftly put out small grease fires. Baking soda or salt sprinkled on the fire will also extinguish it. Although the chemicals can cause a significant cleanup issue, a class-B or class-K fire extinguisher is also advised.

When dealing with major fires, make no attempt to extinguish the flames. Rather, call the fire department right away. You should never pour water on a grease fire because it could cause the hot grease to burst and splatter burning grease all over the place.

Appliances for Heating

Fabrics and other combustibles left too close to space heaters and baseboard heaters might spark a fire. Heating and cooling appliances of various types are the second most common cause of residential fires, accounting for about 12% of all fires. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), around 25,000 residential fires occur in the United States each year, resulting in more than 300 deaths.

Heaters that use fuel, such as kerosene, are particularly dangerous since they can catch fire or explode if not carefully monitored. If the electrical wiring is defective, or if drapes or other materials overheat when they come into touch with the coils, electrical heaters can cause fires.

Always follow the manufacturer’s directions while using a heating device, and inspect it on a regular basis to ensure it’s in excellent working order.

Never leave a heater on when you leave the house. Despite the fact that space heaters nearly usually come with instructions advising against unsupervised use, thousands of house fires are caused each year by such appliances being left on while the owners are away. Make care to keep flammable things away from space heaters.

Fires caused by electricity

Each year, around 51,000 fires are caused by various forms of electrical problems in residential wiring, resulting in about 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage. in accordance with the EFSi (Electrical Safety Foundation international). 3 Short circuits that create arcing (sparking) that burns building materials, or circuits that are overloaded with current, leading wires to overheat, are the most common causes of electric fires. According to the NFPA Home Structure Fires report, electrical fires account for around 10% of all residential fires, but they are often lethal, accounting for around 18% of all home fire deaths. 1 This is likely due to the fact that electrical fires frequently start in hidden areas and grow into catastrophic fires before homeowners notice them. And such fires are known to start while people are sleeping.

Electrical systems that have been properly installed have a variety of built-in safety features, however old, faulty wiring systems can be vulnerable to short circuits and overloading. If you live in an older home, it’s a good idea to get your wiring checked thoroughly by a professional electrician. Also, only undertake your own electrical repairs or enhancements if you are familiar with the concepts of electricity and have prior experience doing so.

Tobacco use

Smoking is bad for your health in a variety of ways, including the risk of fires starting when cigarette butts fall on carpets, furniture, or other combustible items. According to the National Fire Protection Association, cigarettes and smoking materials cause about 1,000 deaths and 3,000 injuries in the United States each year. 1 While cigarettes and other smoking materials account for just around 5% of all residential fires, they are the single most common cause of death, accounting for around 23% of all fire deaths. This is most likely due to the fact that these fires frequently start after a resident falls asleep.

It is very unhealthy to smoke in bed, and it should be avoided at all costs. A single stray ash is all it takes to light a mattress, blanket, carpet, or piece of clothes. If you must smoke, do so outside if at all feasible, or smoke over a sink with an ashtray to lessen the risk of a fire.


According to the National Fire Protection Association, candles caused an estimated average of just over 7,600 fires between 2014 and 2018, with an average of 81 deaths and 677 injuries every year.

If left in a place where youngsters may reach them, matches and lighters used to light candles are just as harmful. If you have children, keep matches and lighters locked away, and never leave a candle burning in an unsupervised room.

Candle fires are most common on New Year’s Day, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day. Candles can lend a lovely touch to family dinners and holiday gatherings, but be sure to put them out before leaving the room. Keep candle flames at least 12 inches away from any flammable things. Consider various ornamental lighting effects; there are some excellent battery-powered flameless luminaries that are extremely lifelike, even down to flickering like candles.

Fires Caused by Chemicals

Chemical reactions are a significant cause of house fires, however they are more common in industrial and commercial settings. The most common cause of residential chemical fires is when volatile vapors from gasoline and other petroleum liquids reach a flash point temperature or come into contact with an open flame. The reaction of chemicals interacting with oxygen in the air to produce enough heat to reach a flashpoint and ignite in flame is another prevalent sort of chemical fire.

Chemical fires of various types cause around 14,000 fires each year, according to the NFPA, and though only a tiny percentage of them are residential fires, they can be particularly lethal due to their unpredictability.

Keep all fuels and other chemicals in their original containers, out of direct sunlight, and away from heat. The gasoline or other fuel used to power lawn equipment is a common source of this type of fire. Tips for storing gasoline safely include the following:

Use a container that has been approved. A red plastic container with marking identifying it as an authorized container is the finest storage container for gasoline.

Fill the container to no more than 95% capacity. This gives vapors a place to expand without rupturing the container.

To prevent gas vapors from escaping and potentially reaching a source of flame or spark, keep containers firmly sealed.

Keep the container at least 50 feet away from pilot lights and ignition sources such a water heater, space heater, or furnace’s heat, sparks, and flames. These fuels are best stored in a detached garage or shed. If no such space is available, place gasoline containers against the outer wall of an attached garage, as far away from living areas as feasible.

Oily rags that spontaneously heat up are another source of chemical fires. After using oil- or chemical-soaked rags, never store them, and especially never stack them in a mound, because heat can be generated spontaneously when the fumes react with oxygen. Oily rags should be laid out in the open until the oil has evaporated. They can be washed and reused once they have dried completely.