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top causes of home fires and how to prevent them

Top Five Causes of Home Fires and How to Avoid Them

Home is where we relax, unwind, and connect with family and friends.

Tragically, it’s also where nearly a third of all fires begin. To keep your home and loved ones safe, educate yourself on the leading causes of fire and how to prevent them.

Cooking

Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires, and they’re responsible for almost half the injuries from home fires. Most kitchen fires involve the stove.

Safety Tips: Whistle (and Watch) While You Work

  • Turn off the stove if you leave the kitchen even for a brief time.
  • Use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
  • Keep flammable items such as paper, packaging, towels, oven mitts and wooden cooking utensils away from the stove and oven.
  • Never pour water on a grease fire.
  • If you decide to fight a fire, smother it by turning off the burner and covering it with a metal or glass lid or pot. If you can’t extinguish the fire, leave the room, close the door and call 911.

Smoking

Smoking is the leading cause of civilian home fire deaths. Cigarettes, pipes, cigars and other smoking materials started fires that caused 21 percent of home fire deaths. One out of four victims was not the smoker whose cigarette ignited the fire.

Safety Tips: Only You Can Prevent Forest (and Home) Fires

  • If you smoke, do it outside. Many smoking fires begin in the bedroom or living room with fabric, paper, or other flammable material.
  • Use a sturdy ashtray. Don’t toss cigars or cigarettes into bushes or leaves.
  • Be cautious with e-cigarettes; never leave them charging unattended or overnight. If the battery gets wet or damaged, replace it. Don’t tamper with safety features.
  • Never allow anyone to smoke where medical oxygen is used. It can make materials ignite more easily and fuel a faster fire.

Electrical and Lighting Equipment

Electrical equipment can also create hazards in the home. Wiring, lighting, electrical cords, and plugs cause about 10 percent of home fires each year.

Safety Tips: Turn It Off  

  • Arc-fault circuit interrupters monitor a circuit’s electrical current and shut the circuit off if unintended arcing happens. An electrician can install them to protect against fire.
  • Don’t use lightbulbs higher than the recommended wattage in lamps.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use.
  • Don’t run electrical cords in places where they could get run over or damaged.
  • Keep children away from electrical sockets.
  • Use lampshades or other covers to make sure a light bulb isn’t bare and radiating heat near flammable material.
  • Call an electrician if you have sparks from an outlet or frequently blown fuses.
  • Click here to view more electrical safety tips.

Heating Equipment

Heating equipment is the second main cause of home fire fatalities. The peak months for home heating fires are December, January, and February. Most heating fire deaths (86 percent) involve space heaters.

Safety Tips: Before Santa Comes, Clean Your Chimney

  • Have a professional clean and inspect your chimney each year. A leading factor in home heating fires was the failure to clean chimneys.
  • Keep flammable materials away from heaters.
  • Test smoke alarms once a month.
  • Vent fuel-burning equipment to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Click here for more heating safety tips.

Candles

Tis the season to be merry and bright, but watch the candles. The highest rates of home candle fires are on New Year’s Day, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.

Safety Tips: Maybe Don’t Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire

  • Never go to sleep with candles burning. Sleeping was a factor in 11 percent of the home candle fires.
  • Keep candles at least one foot away from anything that could catch fire.
  • Place candles on a sturdy surface.
  • Be careful when lighting candles to keep hair and clothing away from them. Don’t burn a candle all the way down.
  • Keep lit candles out of reach of small children and pets.

Don’t let something easily avoided ravage your home or commercial property.

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