10 Most Common Causes of House Fires

According to the National Fire Protection Association, local fire departments have responded to over 1,291,500 incidents in 2019. It caused more than 3,700 deaths, and 73% of which are from house fires. These are alarming numbers that should make any homeowner cautious.

To be proactive in the prevention of fire, we’ll talk about some of their main causes. To add, we’ll also give some tips on how they can be avoided to help you stay safe at home!

1. Cooking Equipment

From 2014 to 2018, there are 172,900 home structure fires annually resulting from cooking activities. The highest of these incidences were recorded during Christmas and Thanksgiving, two of the major holidays in the U.S. where people are busy in their kitchen, preparing a feast for family and friends. It has also been noted that most of these fires involved electric ranges and cooktops. In many situations, the fires result from having cooking equipment unattended.

To lessen the incidences of cooking equipment fire, here are some of the best things to do:

  • Use only high-quality cooking equipment. Pay attention to the reputation of the manufacturer.
  • Prioritize care and maintenance. Keeping your cooking appliances clean and well-serviced will be an easy way to prevent fires.
  • Be attentive when you are cooking. It is best to stay in the kitchen to keep an eye on cooking equipment. Set an alarm to not forget that you are cooking something.
  • Consider using gas cooking equipment as they have contributed to fewer fires compared to their electric counterparts.

2. Heating Equipment

From 2012 to 2016, local fire departments have responded to more than 52,050 fires caused by heating equipment. It accounts for 15% of all reported fires within the said period. It resulted in the loss of 490 lives and over $1 million in property damages. The main reason for these fires is having heating equipment that is positioned next to a known fire hazard, such as mattresses, clothes, and furniture.

Here are some of the best things to do to prevent fires caused by heating equipment:

  • Keep heaters away from flammable items. Like with other heating sources, the best practice is to have the heater three feet away from things that can easily burn.
  • When you leave the house or when the heater is not used, turn it off.
  • Do not use an extension cord for space heaters. Plug it directly to an outlet.
  • Inspect and clean fireplaces annually. It is best to let the pros do the job.

3. Intentional Fires

While some fire cases are because of accidents, sadly, many are also because of intentional causes. According to the United States Fire Administration, intentional fires are 13% of all reported fire incidents. The same organization also notes that there are 18,100 annual incidents of having residential buildings set on fire. Also, not all of the intentional fires are a result of arson. Some happen because of what other people thought of would be fun.

Some of the reasons why intentional fires happen are the following:

  • To commit insurance fraud
  • To burn trash
  • To get rid of the evidence, especially in cases of theft

4. Smoking

Smoking is not only hazardous to your health, but it is also dangerous for your homes. Cigarette butts can be accidentally dropped on the floor, and this can set your home on fire. The fire will spread quickly if the floor material is flammable, especially carpet. 17,200 home structures were set on fire because of smoking. This resulted in up to $426 million of property damage.

Most of the fires caused by smoking happen in the exterior balcony, open porch, living room, and bedroom. In many situations, a person falls asleep or forgets to extinguish the cigarette, resulting in a fire.

Here are some reasons why smoke fires often become fatal:

  • People are intoxicated when a cigarette fire starts
  • People are asleep
  • The material when the fire starts is highly flammable, making it difficult to control the situation
  • Lack of systems in place to immediately respond to fire, such as sprinklers and fire extinguishers

5. Laundry

The US Fire departments responded to 15,970 annual house fires resulting from washing machines and clothes dryers. More than 92% are caused by clothes dryers. These fires were caused by ignition from dust, lint, and fiber. This is based on data from NFPA from 2010 to 2014. There’s no current information available about these fires.

To prevent laundry fires at home, here are some things to do:

  • Wash clothes depending on the temperature recommended.
  • Do not overfill the dryer.
  • Regularly clean the lint screens and drawer baskets.
  • Do not leave the dryer running if you are going to sleep or leave the house. It is best to keep an eye as it works.

6. Grills

More than 8,900 home fires annually are caused by gas grills. The peak month is July, followed by June, May, and August. Five of out six grills involved in home fires were gas-powered, while only 12% are using charcoal and solid fuel. While summer is often equated to having fun outdoors and enjoying a good barbecue, if you aren’t careful, this can also be a cause of the fire.

Below are some of the most important safety precautions to avoid fire caused by gas grills:

  • In more than 29% of the cases, dirty gas grills are the culprits. So, it is important to keep your grills clean to maintain peak performance and prevent fire.
  • Keep an eye on the grill. It is easy to be distracted and have fun but be responsible to watch out for whatever you are grilling.
  • See to it that there are no gas leaks.
  • Do not grill near combustibles.

7. Candles

Candles, especially when they are scented, can be therapeutic. In the same way, they are also romantic! However, if you aren’t careful, candles spell disaster! According to the NFPA, 7,610 home structures were annually set on fires because of candles. On average, it results in 81 civilian deaths per year and up to $278 million in property damages. Daily, it is estimated that about 21 home candle fires are reported. The peak month for these home fires happens in December.

To prevent home candle fires, here are some of the best things to do:

  • Before you leave any room or go to sleep, make sure to blow out all candles.
  • When you are using candles, keep it about 12 inches from any material that can be easily set on fire.
  • If you are using oxygen at home, do not light candles
  • During power outages, it is best to use flashlights and battery-powered light sources. Using candles is not recommended since it will be difficult to extinguish a fire when there is no light.

8. Overloaded Outlets

Pay attention to the power capacity of an outlet and the power needs of the appliances that will be plugged into such. This is especially the case if you are using extension cords. Using an arc fault circuit interrupter is one of the best ways to prevent fire problems that are caused by overloaded electrical outlets.

Some of the most common signs that you have overloaded outlets include the following:

  • Flickering or blinking of lights
  • Having frequently blown fuses
  • Discolored wall plates
  • Mild shock from appliances
  • Cracking of receptacles

9. Christmas Trees

Christmas may be a festive season, but it can quickly turn into a disaster. Among others, one of the reasons for this is the Christmas tree, which is responsible for 160 home fires annually from 2013 to 2017. In most cases, these fires were caused by lights and electrical distribution. Candles and holiday decorations can also be blamed.

Here are some of the best ways to prevent fires from Christmas trees:

  • Make sure that the tree is fresh. Dry and old needles can be fire hazards.
  • Position the tree at least three feet away from any direct heat source.
  • If you are leaving your home or going to sleep, turn off the Christmas tree lights.
  • Check the lights that you will use. They should be suitable for indoor applications and should have passed the minimum standards set by relevant authorities.

10. Faulty Electrical Wiring

Wrapping up our list of the most common reasons for a house fire is faulty wiring. This can be an issue with almost anything that is powered by electricity in your home. The risk is exacerbated by having a flammable object nearby.

To prevent fires caused by faulty electrical wiring, here are some tips:

  • Always inspect the wires. If they are outdated or damaged, have them replaced as soon as possible.
  • Avoid wires from being exposed. They can be subjected to wear, such as being pinched by furniture and door, which can increase fire hazards.
  • Do an electrical audit of your home at least once a year. This is one task that is best left to the pros.

Fires are amongst the deadliest home accidents in the United States. The leading causes are mentioned above, including cooking equipment, heating equipment, and smoking. The best thing that you can do is to be proactive and preventive. Know what to do in case there is a fire. Install systems that will help extinguish the flames before they grow bigger. Also, make sure that you contact the local fire department for help.

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