10 of the Most Common Reasons for House Fires and How to Avoid Them
Updated: Apr 4
One of the greatest tragedies I've witnessed since being an insurance agent is when a customer loses everything to a house fire. Losing part or everything you own, sometimes including the lives of pets and family members is devastating, and even if you have insurance, some things just are not replaceable. In this article, we'll discuss the most common contributing factors to house fires and how to prevent them.
Misuse of appliances
1. Sometimes, people don't realize they are misusing appliances, or how dangerous it can be. However, that is a leading contributor of house fires, especially cooking equipment. All of us have put something on the stove, and meanwhile became distracted by a phone call, a child or other household chores. Pots and pans can overheat and catch on fire when left unattended. Grease fires only take moments to get out of control, and sometimes, people make the mistake of throwing water on the fire, which only makes it worse! In case of a grease fire, baking soda or a fire extinguisher is your best friend and can sometimes save your home, or at least make the damage minimal.
A small flame can get out of control in less than 30 seconds, so always stay in the kitchen when you're cooking and minimize your distractions. Keep oven mitts, dishtowels, paper towels, etc. away from the stove, and make sure to turn everything off when it is not in use.
Make sure your appliances are functioning properly by performing a routine checkup on our appliances. Never use an extension cord or a double adapter in order to plug multiple appliances into one outlet, because doing so can overload the socket and cause a fire.
In addition, if you go on vacation, unplug your appliances to prevent fire hazards.
2. Heating equipment accounts for another 13-15 percent of residential fires, which in most cases, are completely preventable by inspecting your heaters and keeping them clean. Heaters, wood stoves, hot water heaters, furnaces and chimneys need regular checkups . If you can't do this yourself, hire a professional.
Leaving space heaters too close to your walls, drapes and bedding is very dangerous. Keep your heaters away from these things as well as furniture, curtains, laundry, clothing and your body. Additionally, installing a carbon monoxide detector is also a good idea to alert you to deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
You or someone knowledgeable should check your heaters for faulty wiring, frayed wiring and damaged cords before use. Do not use any heater if the wiring is bad. If there are any exposed wires, do not plug it in, and either get the wiring replaced immediately or dispose of the heater. Keep the cords away from your furniture and rugs, and never ever run cords under rugs!
3. Carelessness is another cause of house fires which can be prevented. If you smoke inside your home, be sure to put your cigarettes out properly, and avoid smoking in bed. People commonly fall asleep while smoking in bed, not realizing just how flammable clothing and mattresses are.
Candles are pretty, but leaving them unattended can destroy your home. Keep them away from flammable items such as books, papers, towels, clothing, etc. and ALWAYS blow them out before leaving a room. Make sure you keep them out of the reach of children and pets.
4. Chimneys and fireplaces have been around forever, but sometimes, people forget how dangerous they can be. Chimneys need to be cleaned every year, and many people either don't realize that, don't take the time to do it, or don't want to spend the money on it. When you build a fire, the sap and ash from the wood you are burning, coats the inner lining of your chimney. Over time, the residue builds up and becomes a fire hazard.
Children left unattended
5. Leaving children unattended around fire is a definite no for many reasons, and it can be a factor in causing house fires. Children cause fires out of curiosity, and sometimes even on purpose when they are trying to get your attention. Never leave matches or lighters in a place accessible to children, teach them about fire safety, and never leave them alone with flammable materials.
6. Dryer lint is also another fire-causing concern due to the build-up of lint. Vents and filters need cleaning, regularly, thoroughly, and often. If you are uncertain as to how to clean your dryer vent, check out this link that will walk you through the process https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxkoMJM3nX4.
7. Over the years, the wiring in homes can become worn and faulty and cause fires due to electrical hazards. Signs of faulty wiring include lights dimming if you use an appliance, having to disconnect one appliance to use another, and fuses blowing or tripping the circuit breaker frequently. If you notice any of these, have a licensed electrician inspect your wiring just to be on the safe side.
8. Barbecues or grills are great for entertaining, but they should only be used outdoors, and they should be kept away from your house, tablecloths, plants, trees, branches, paper products, deck railing or wooden furniture. Maintain your grill regularly and clean all the removable parts. Also, if you use a gas grill, check your propane tanks for leaks before every use!
9. Flammable liquids around your home can be a big problem if you aren't careful. People sometimes ignore the fact that fuels, solvents, cleaning agents, paint thinners, adhesives, paints and raw materials can ignite or explode if they are not stored properly. Vapors can ignite in extreme temperatures, and one spark of static electricity can cause a fire. You should never store flammable liquids near a heating source. Always keep them outside your home in a cool, ventilated area and only store it in approved containers.
Christmas tree and decorations
10. Christmas tree decorations are beautiful, but they can be very dangerous. If you use a live tree, keep it watered properly and away from heat sources such as radiators, TVs, furnaces, space heaters and fireplaces. Check the lights before putting them on your tree to make sure they work properly and that the wiring is not faulty. Dispose of any lights with frayed or exposed wiring. Never put candles or an open flame of any sort near a Christmas tree even when you are at home.
House fires claim numerous lives every year. Protect yourself, your family, your pets and your home by being more aware of the dangers. Equip your home with smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers and other safety equipment. Make sure you and your family have an escape plan should a fire break out in your home at night while you are sleeping,
Ask your insurance agent for additional tips and information, about discounts on your homeowner's insurance, make sure to keep it up to date. If you don't have an agent, have questions or would like a free quote, please give us a call at 256-773-2698.