7 Common Causes of House Fires and How to Prevent Them

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How to Prevent Home Fires

An accidental fire can ignite with terrifying unpredictability, spread uncontrollably in seconds, and decimate a home in minutes. Home fires put everyone in the home at risk, and even small fires that go out quickly usually result in damage in the thousands of dollars.

Having a proper insurance policy is essential to help mitigate financial losses associated with a residential fire, but it is far better to prevent the circumstances that led to the fire.

According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are more than 350,000 home fires each year in the United States, causing more than 2,500 deaths.

Fires can be started in a number of ways, but they generally fall into one of two categories: fires caused by heat igniting combustible materials, and those caused by chemical reactions.

Your home is full of objects and materials that can burn in the right conditions. Some of the most common causes of home fires are familiar to everyone, while others may surprise you. Identifying and reducing these risks helps reduce the chances of home fires, keeping your family and property safer.

Cooking-Related Fires

Kitchen fires are among the most common types of home fires, causing approximately 49% of all residential fires. Most of the time, they are caused by fats overheating on the stove or oven.

Grease is highly flammable when it gets hot enough (around 600 degrees Fahrenheit, on average) and when it reaches that point, it can spontaneously burn, even without direct contact with the flame. Once the grease has caught fire, it is very difficult to douse the flames.

Never leave the kitchen unattended while cooking in oil or while cooking fat-producing foods such as bacon. Most kitchen fires start because the landlord leaves the food they prepare unattended on a stove or oven.

When the fire is discovered, it is usually too late. Clean the pots thoroughly to prevent grease from building up over time.

Portable kitchen appliances, such as toasters and hot plates, can also be a source of the fire. Never leave these portable devices unattended and make sure they are cool to the touch before putting them away. Toasters should be regularly cleaned of crumbs that can catch fire if they accumulate inside the appliance.

During the outdoor cooking season, barbecues left unattended on a wooden deck or near the exterior walls of a home can also be a source of fire.

A heated barbecue near a wooden fence can easily start fires, and grills have been known to ignite the exterior walls of a home or garage if placed too closely together.

Small grease fires can be extinguished quickly by putting out the fire and smothering the fire with a metal lid. Smearing baking soda or salt on the fire will also turn it off. A class B or K fire extinguisher is also recommended, although chemicals can create a significant cleanup problem.

In the event of a severe fire, do not attempt to put out the fire. Call the fire department immediately. Under no circumstances should water be poured over the grease fire as this can cause the hot grease to explode and dump the burned grease into the area.

Heating Appliances

Household stoves and baseboard stoves can start fires when fabrics and other fuels are left too close to them. Heating and cooling devices of various types are the second leading cause of residential fires, responsible for approximately 12% of all home fires.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 25,000 home fires occur each year in the United States, causing more than 300 deaths.

Heaters that require fuel, such as kerosene, are particularly dangerous as they can catch fire or explode if not properly controlled.

Electric heaters can start fires if the electrical wiring is faulty or if the curtains or other fabrics become overheated when they come into contact with the coils.

Always follow the instructions for any heating device you use and inspect it periodically to make sure it is in good condition.

Never leave the house with the stove on. Portable heaters almost always have warning instructions against unsupervised use, but thousands of home fires each year can be attributed to these appliances being left running when the owners are away. Make sure flammable materials are kept away from stoves.

Electrical Fires

Various types of electrical faults in-home wiring cause approximately 51,000 fires each year, accounting for nearly 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and approximately $ 1.3 billion in property damage. According to EFSi (International Electrical Safety Foundation), electrical fires most typically occur due to short circuits that cause arcs (sparks) that ignite building materials, or circuits that are overloaded with current, causing cables to overheat.

Electrical problems account for about 10% of all residential fires, but this type of fire is often fatal and accounts for about 18% of deaths from home fires, according to the Home Structure Fire Report from the United States. NFPA. they ignite in hidden places and start huge fires before residents know it. And these fires can often be started while residents sleep.

Properly installed electrical systems are very safe, with several built-in protection features, but old and faulty wiring systems can be prone to shorts and overloads. It is a good idea to have a professional electrician check the wiring, especially if he lives in an older home. And don't do any electrical repairs or upgrades yourself unless you understand the basics of electricity and are experienced in this type of work.

Smoking

Smoking is harmful to your health in many ways, including the possibility of starting a fire with cigarette butts thrown on carpets, furniture, or other flammable materials. According to the National Fire Protection Association, cigarette and smoking material fires in the United States caused nearly 1,000 deaths and 3,000 injuries each year.

Although cigarettes and other smoking materials account for only 5% of home fires, these are particularly responsible for approximately 23% of all fire deaths, the most common cause. This is likely due to the fact that these fires tend to ignite when a resident falls asleep.

Smoking in bed is particularly dangerous and should always be avoided at all costs. Single stray ash is enough to ignite a mattress, blanket, rug, or item of clothing. If you need to smoke, smoke outdoors whenever possible or smoke over a sink using an ashtray to reduce the risk of fire.

Candles

The National Fire Protection Association states that between 2014 and 2018, candles caused an estimated average of just over 7,600 fires, with an average of 81 deaths and 677 injuries in each of those years.

Matches and lighters used to light candles are just as dangerous if left where children can reach them. Keep matches and lighters locked up in a safe place if you have children, and never leave a burning candle in an unattended room.

New Years Day, Christmas, and New Years are the best times to light candles. Candles can add a wonderful touch to family dinners and Christmas parties, but always blow them out before leaving the room. Keep candle flames at least 12 inches (30 cm) from any material that could catch fire.

Consider other options for decorative lighting effects; There are excellent battery-operated flameless lamps that are remarkably realistic, even flickering the same way as candles.

Chemical Fires

Although fires caused by chemical reactions are more common in industrial/commercial locations, they are also a common cause of home fires. Household chemical fires most often occur when volatile vapors from gasoline and other petroleum liquids reach a flashpoint temperature or when the vapors come in contact with an open flame source.

Another common type of chemical fire is spontaneous combustion, the reaction of chemicals that combine with oxygen in the air to produce enough heat to reach a flashpoint and ignite.

Chemical fires of various types cause about 14,000 fires each year, according to the NFPA, and while a relatively small number of these fires are residential, they can be particularly deadly because they are so unexpected.

Store all fuels and other chemicals in suitable containers and store them in places protected from heat. A common source of this type of fire is gasoline or other fuel that is used to power garden equipment. Tips for storing gasoline safely:

  • Use an approved container. The best container for storing gasoline is a red plastic container with a printed label identifying it as an approved container.
  • Do not fill the container more than 95 percent. This leaves room for the vapors to expand without breaking the container.
  • Keep containers tightly closed to prevent gas vapors from escaping and reaching a source of flames or sparks.
  • Store container at least 15 meters from pilot lights and sources of ignition, such as heat, sparks, and flames from a water heater, water heater, or oven. A detached garage or shed is the ideal place to store these fuels. If there is no such space, store fuel containers on the outside wall of an adjacent garage, as far away from residential areas as possible.

Another cause of chemical fires is when oily rags spontaneously heat up. Never store rags soaked in oil or chemicals after use, and especially never stack them, as heat can spontaneously be generated when vapors combine with oxygen.

Oily rags should be spread out in an open place until the oil evaporates. Once they are completely dry, they can be washed for reuse.

If possible, storing paint thinners, turpentine, and other flammable liquids in a fireproof cabinet is well separated from residential spaces. Make sure individual containers are tightly closed.

Christmas Trees

Christmas trees are a holiday tradition for many families, but they do carry some risks. True evergreens tend to dry out over time and at the end of the Christmas season can pose a serious fire hazard. Warm light or spark can instantly ignite the tree and the fire spreads with incredible speed, engulfing a room in seconds.

Although Christmas tree fires are much less common than other causes (about 160 cases per year in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association), these fires can be deadly. They are responsible for two deaths and 14 injuries each year.

Artificial trees made from vinyl or plastic needles are safer in this regard, but an electrical fire caused by a faulty wire in the lamp cord or an overloaded outlet is still a risk. Never leave the Christmas tree lights on when you are not at home or when you sleep, it does not matter if the tree is natural or artificial.

Check natural trees regularly to make sure they are not too dry. Make sure the water tank is full to prevent the tree from drying out for fuel.

Older Christmas tree lamps that use incandescent lamps can generate a lot of heat and are best replaced with lamps that use LEDs (light-emitting diodes), which are noticeably cooler to the touch. But all lamp wires should be inspected regularly and discarded if they have bare wires or other problems.

Sometimes Christmas lights are used in other parts of the house, for example around the windows. These strands of light can also cause curtains or other materials to light up if they are defective or misused.

We hope you enjoy watching this video about Preventing Fires in the Home

Source: Baloise Group

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