Fire is one of the most destructive forces of nature. It can engulf an entire forest or house in just a matter of hours.
Unfortunately, household fires are more common than you can imagine.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), U.S. fire departments respond to an average of one home fire every 88 seconds. On average, seven people die in U.S. home fires per day.
If the conditions are suitable, fire can start and spread quickly. However, you can avoid most of these fatalities with proper precautions.
Here are the five most common causes of household fires and ways you can avoid them.
1) Cooking Equipment
Cooking equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires and home fire injuries. According to recent statistics, 118,700 home fires involved cooking equipment, with 250 deaths and 3880 injuries resulting from these fires.
Usually, cooking fires start with the ignition of combustible items in the kitchen such as wallpapers, curtains, kitchen towels, oven mitts, and napkins, among others.
Leaving the cooking unattended primarily leads to fire. So, you must never leave the stove on when you are not around. You can always turn it off or ask someone to watch the food while you are away. Never place any combustible item too close to the stove.
Wear close-fitted clothing as it is less likely to catch fire when cooking. Never place a metal or foil container in the microwave oven. Avoid using greasy pans and pots for cooking.
If a greased pan happens to catch fire, put a lid on the pan to smother the fire. Avoid using water as it can spatter the hot and burning grease around, spreading the fire further.
2) Heating Equipment
According to an NFPA report released in December 2018, heating equipment fires accounted for 15% of all reported home fires in 2012-2016 (second behind cooking) and 19% of home fire deaths.
It also states that the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (27%) was the failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.
You should get your furnace inspected and chimney cleaned every year. You may need additional preemptive measures depending on the local laws and weather.
For example, a Portland chimney sweep will be aware of the city’s eco-friendliness along with the overcast and wet weather conditions in fall, winter, and spring. Thus, a local chimney care provider can offer you the best service that ensures not only fire safety, but also complies with the local laws.
You should also get your portable heaters checked and serviced from certified professionals. Make sure the electrical wiring in the heater is in working condition.
Always keep combustibles such as cloth, furniture, and paper items away from the heater. Remember, these heaters aren’t meant to dry your shoes or clothes. Never leave your house with the heater running.
Candles are also a significant fire hazard, especially when left unattended. Recently, burning candles left unattended were responsible for starting a house fire that displaced a family of seven on the South Hill in Spokane, Washington.
Several such incidents take place every year, causing property damage in millions of dollars, fatal injuries, and even deaths.
To avoid candle fires, always blow out all candles before leaving your room or going to bed. As far as possible, avoid using candles in bedrooms with heavy upholstery or furniture. Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.
Avoid burning a candle all the way. If you do, use a good quality candle stand that won’t tip over or overheat and cause a fire. Avoid moving a burning candle from one room to the other. To avoid hot wax spatters and always use a snuffer to extinguish a candle. Don’t use a candle as a night light.
4) Electrical Appliances
Overheating of electrical equipment, overloaded electric circuits or switchboards, and equipment malfunction can cause electric appliances to catch fire. Something as simple as a toaster can start a fire if it has a faulty circuit or a frayed cord.
If you have any old electrical appliance with faulty circuit or sprayed cord, replace it immediately. Make sure to check your appliances, electric wiring, and switchboards regularly.
Any discoloration around your outlets is a sign that you need an upgrade. You should get it checked from a licensed electrician. Don’t overload your outlets with double adapter plugs or force fit plugs.
Never use appliances with a cloth covered cord. Replace them immediately. You shouldn’t run electrical wires and cords under the rug, upholstery or heavy furniture. A power point extension cord can also become a fire hazard under certain circumstances.
5) Smoking Irresponsibly
Careless smoking can also cause home fires. Usually, poorly discarded cigarette butts lead to a fire. As most things in your house can catch fire, it is better to smoke outside.
Avoid smoking in bed or on the couch as long as possible. You could doze off with a burning cigarette still in your hands, leading to a fire.
Avoid smoking when you are medicated, intoxicated or too tired to put the cigarette out. When done, put your cigarette out completely and always use an ashtray to do so. Put water on the ashes and cigarette butts before throwing them in the trash. Medical oxygen is combustible. So, never smoke around it.
These are the five most common causes of household fires. As you can see, your house presents an ideal environment for a fire to start and spread quickly.
However, if you implement the above five preventative tips, you can easily avoid household fires. What steps have you taken to keep your home safe from fires? Tell us in the comments section below.