Most Common Causes Of House Fires & How To Stop Them From Happening
How Common Are House Fires
According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are more than 350,000 home fires each year in the U.S., leading to more than 2,600 deaths.
Not surprisingly, cooking fires are among the most common types of house fires, contributing to 49 percent of all residential fires. In the last twenty years, home fires have become more common, with an increase of 8 percent since the year 2000.
In a Hartford Insurance listing of the top 100 U.S. Cities with the highest risk of home fires, Denver ranks #91.
Top Causes Of House Fires
There are so many ways a house fire can start, and with the number of house fires increasing year-to-year, it’s important to understand how they start so you can take steps to prevent them from occurring.
Home fire prevention begins with education about the different areas in your home that are the most common causes of house fires. Once you know what causes house fires, you can create a fire prevention plan.
#1 – Bath Fans
Bath fans have a motorized fan, and any time you have a motor, there’s a chance it could malfunction and cause an electrical fire.
Many bathroom fan motors are decades old and may need to be replaced instead of repaired. If you hear a scraping sound, it means the blades are coming into contact with debris, which can cause the fan to overheat and catch fire.
As such, make sure to inspect your bathroom fans on a yearly basis to ensure they’re in good working order and free from any dirt and debris.
#2 – Battery Chargers
Batteries can present a fire risk when overcharged, short-circuited, submerged in water, or damaged. Buy a battery charger from the manufacturer or another trusted brand, as counterfeit or cheap chargers may not meet safety standards.
Remember to never cover chargers or charging devices and unplug them when not in use.
#3 – Cooking
Using cooking oil at an extremely high temperature is a recipe for a fire. When cooking with oil, first it will boil, then it will smoke, and then it will catch fire. This usually occurs when its temperature is above 425 degrees. Coconut oil is especially flammable, with a smoke point of only 385 degrees.
Cooking oil catches fire when a frying pan is kept on the burning stove for a long time because, during this period, oil reaches its ignition temperature and the oil is highly flammable. Try to remove cooking oil from your stovetop as soon as it is cool enough to do so.
#4 – Portable Heaters
Older portable heaters are notoriously faulty and prone to catching fire. Older portable heaters contained an open element, but today’s heaters are much safer. Even if you have a newer heater, it should not be placed too close to a flammable item. Look for space heaters with an ETL or UL certification.
Keep your space heater on the floor and away from flammable objects and water. Don’t leave it unattended and shut it off before you fall asleep. It may not seem dangerous to walk away or fall asleep, but doing so leaves you vulnerable since it will take you longer to react and prevent a fire if it has a jump start on you.
#5 – Faulty Wiring
Most electrical fires start with faulty electrical outlets or worn-out and improperly grounded sockets. As outlets and switches age, their wiring becomes worn, and worn wires loosen over time, leading to a break and ultimately a fire.
According to the NFPA, electrical failures or malfunctions contributed to the ignition of nearly four out of five home fires (79%) involving electrical distribution or lighting equipment.
#6 – Smoking
According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoking was the leading cause of home fire deaths from 2012 to 2016. Overall, one out of every 31 home smoking material fires resulted in death.
If a cigarette or cigar is left in a crowded container, the contents can combust and begin a fire. Or, if a cigarette is not properly extinguished and comes into contact with other flammable materials, it can cause a fire.
#7 – Candles
Candles contribute to an average of 21 home fires a day according to the NFPA. Usually, it’s not that a candle is burning, it’s that a candle is burning too close to something flammable. Also, if a candle is left unattended or someone falls asleep, there is a risk that the candle could be knocked over by a family pet or blown over by an open window or fan.
Always remember to blow out candles when you leave the room or go to sleep.
#8 – BBQs
The grease in the BBQ grill can vaporize and ignite, causing a grease fire. You can prevent much of this risk by cleaning out your grill’s drip pan. If barbeque grills are not cleaned out properly, the grease that has built up is a fire waiting to happen.
#9 – Flammable Liquids & Chemicals
A trip to the area under your sink, down in your basement, a shed, or garage will reveal many flammable liquids and chemicals in your household. Besides gasoline and lighter fluid, rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, hand sanitizer, and many extra strength cleaning agents can easily catch fire. Keep them stored in a cool, dry area for increased safety.
#10 – Lighting
Light fixtures are a common cause of house fires. Incandescent bulbs get hot enough to start a contact fire if they are nearby flammable objects. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the leading causes of fire are wiring problems and fitting a bulb with too high wattage on a light fixture that is intended for a lower wattage.
#11 – Christmas Trees
Christmas trees, especially real trees, act as tinder for a fire since they are dry and wrapped in electrical lights. LED lights give off less heat and should be used over regular string lights. Also, the fresher the tree is, the less likely it is to burn. A rule of thumb is that if the needles snap in half instead of bending, it’s time to ditch your Christmas tree.
#12 – Dirty Chimneys
The main cause of a chimney fire is creosote, which is a highly flammable dark brown substance that coats chimney walls when smoke, vapor, and unburned wood condense as they move from a hot fireplace or wood stove into the cooler temperature of the chimney. If the temperature in the chimney flue (the space inside the chimney) gets high enough, and the creosote build-up thick enough, creosote can catch fire. Best practices include only burning firewood that has dried for at least six months, insulating the flue liner, keeping the flue open, and cleaning the chimney annually.
#13 – Damaged Extension Cables
Extension cables are meant for temporary use, and the misuse, long term use, or overloading of the extension cord or connecting to more appliances than the cord wattage can handle may cause overheating and can spark a fire.
Look closely to see if your extension cords are at least 16 AWG or 18 AWG with fuse protection. AWG refers to the size of the wires in the cord. The wire size is imprinted on the cord’s surface. Also look for markers from a national testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or CSA-International (CSA).
#14 – Dryers & Other Appliances
With a clothes dryer, there is a risk of clogged vents, ducts, and filters contributing to a house fire. Beyond lint, there can also be build up from pet hair, dirt, grass, or anything else that remains after the washing process. One safety measure you can take is having your dryer vents professionally cleaned and serviced once a year.
How To Prevent House Fires
If you know how house fires start, then the next step is learning how to prevent house fires. Home fire prevention includes installing fire detection devices and keeping a fire extinguisher handy.
Also, since many of your home’s appliances are the leading causes of house fires, make sure you inspect and clean them regularly. Electrical cords, especially in older homes with overloaded outlets can be especially dangerous.
Keep A Fire Extinguisher Nearby
According to a survey of homeowners by Porch.com, about 62 percent of Americans reported having a fire extinguisher at home and that they knew where it was. But 8 percent said they had one but had no idea where it was, and nearly a third of Americans reported having no fire extinguisher. This means about 40 percent of households would not have an extinguisher handy in the event of an emergency. Having a fire extinguisher is not enough, make sure you know how to use it when you need to.
Maintain Fire-Prone Appliances
Fire-prone appliances include refrigerators, dishwashers, dryers, stoves, microwaves, and toasters. If the appliance is new, remember to register the product with the manufacturer. Doing so means you will be notified of any recalls and can take steps to keep the home safe.
With all appliances, a good rule of thumb is to clean them regularly and inspect the electrical cords providing power to the units. Note that almost all fire prone appliances reside in the kitchen.
Inspect All Cords For Damage
Regularly check the electrical cords throughout your home for signs of fraying, and replace any frayed wires. Do not pinch or cover electrical cords with items such as rugs. Cords under rugs may overheat, especially when the wires inside begin to break down as people step on them.
Once a cord is damaged it is unable to transmit current, causing it to become hot. Statistics show cord overheating is most likely to happen in the middle of the night when the household is fast asleep.
Don’t Leave Open Flames Unattended
Never leave candles or other open flames unattended, and do not leave your gas stove unless you’re close by in case it catches fire. Other sources of open flames, such as wood burning fireplaces, must be monitored to stay safe.
Test Smoke Detectors Every Month
Press the small button on your smoke detector to test. If the beep is weak, it’s time to change the batteries. Remember, your smoke detectors need to be accessible. If they are too hard to access, the batteries won’t get changed.
Use Flame-Retardant Paint
Fire retardant paint is designed to stop the spread of flames and fire over a given surface by releasing a flame dampening gas once the paint becomes hot. This helps stop the spread of a fire, slow the spread of a fire, reduce a fire’s intensity, or reduce the smoke a fire produces.
Properly Store Flammable Liquids
Many cleaning and lawn care chemicals are extremely combustible. Keep these items away from space heaters and other heat sources and store them safely in a cool area.
Clean Chimneys Once A Year
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), all chimneys should be cleaned and inspected by a professional at least once every year, regardless of how frequently it is used.
Creosote (a carbonaceous chemical) builds up on the interior of your chimney. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) statistics indicate that there are more than 25,000 chimney fires annually in the U.S..
What To Do If A Fire Breaks Out In Your Home
If a fire breaks out in your home try to stay calm and keep your bearings. If it is a small fire, try to access your fire extinguisher to put it out.
If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, and it’s a grease or cooking fire, dousing it with flour will help. If you are able to smother the fire and can do so without risk to yourself, that is another option.
If the fire is beyond your immediate control, call 911 immediately and get everyone out of your home as quickly as you can. If your primary route of escape is unavailable, have a second route in mind.
If the smoke is overwhelming, stay low and underneath the smoke, and close doors behind you if you can.
Remember, this is not the time to run for sentimental or expensive items, nothing is more important than your safety.
What Is Fire Damage Restoration?
Fire damage restoration includes all of the steps that must be taken to restore your home to the way it was before the fire ever began. One of the first steps in the timeline of fire damage restoration involves an assessment and inspection of the damage.
Understanding how the fire started and whether any chemicals were present helps professionals to complete the process with particular equipment and cleaning agents.
Fire damage restoration also involves an inventory of all of the damaged items in the home and their current condition.This way a professional fire damage restoration crew will know which items are salvageable and can prepare them for repair off site. Another part of the fire damage restoration process includes the removal and safekeeping of these fire damaged items, as well as repair and replacement of damaged walls, ceilings and floors inside your home.
Smoke and odor removal is another step in fire damage restoration as well. In addition, if the fire was ultimately extinguished by sprinklers or the fire department, chances are there is also water damage to clean up.
There are many steps in the fire damage restoration process, but each one helps you and your family return to a safe, healthy home.
Why Choose HRS Restoration Services
HRS Restoration Services is your trusted partner when you’ve experienced a devastating home fire. We have two decades of experience helping homeowners return their homes to the safe and welcoming sanctuary they were before the fire ignited.
Our professional crew is trained, licensed, experienced, and ready to help you 24/7.
HRS Restoration Services has been helping homeowners after house fires for two decades. Our process includes a thorough inspection of your home for safety, and the extent of damage.
Following the inspection, we’re able to remove and repair fire and smoke-affected items. And finally, to bring your home back to the way it was pre-fire, we remove the odor, smoke, and fire-damaged items to repair and reconstruct if necessary.
To start, our team will board up walls and seal the roof and windows. This ensures that no additional damage or theft can occur.
Next, we visually inspect the premises to gauge the extent of the fire and determine which items were affected. Fire and smoke damage is pervasive, so we make an inventory of all items, both moveable and immovable to determine their condition. This includes the inspection of HVAC and electrical systems which can be damaged by fire and smoke. Even if the roof doesn’t have evidence of a fire, if the shingles became hot enough, the roof covering may have been damaged and may not last as long.
Our assessment may also involve determining the source of the fire if it was unclear at the onset.
Remove & Repair
HRS is a full-service content restoration company. Before we can begin bringing new life back into your fire and smoke damaged items, we will remove them to prevent any additional damage. All affected items that are salvageable will be inventoried, removed, and stored in a climate-controlled storage facility.
Our expert team, including contractors and carpenters, can repair furniture and other items damaged in your home fire. We may need to reconstruct items or it may be possible to restore them using commercial cleaning equipment.
Following a fire in your home, not only is there smoke and fire damage, but there is also water damage from sprinklers, extinguishers, or fire hoses. .
In addition to removing the smell of smoke, determining if the structural integrity was affected, our team will also extract the water and clean up any mold or mildew growth that occurred.
The fire restoration process may also involve demolition, reconstruction, debris and soot removal, and thorough contents cleaning.
Contact HRS Restoration Services Today!
HRS Restoration Services is a trusted and experienced Denver fire damage restoration company. Call us for more information or to schedule an appointment. We’re ready to respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to fix your smoke and fire damaged home.
IICRC stands for the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification. Formed nearly 40 years ago, it is a non-profit organization that establishes globally recognized standards for the cleaning and restoration industry, as well as providing certifications, journeyman and master designation, and education.
By choosing a firm with IICRC certified team members, you are assured the cleaning professionals have undergone rigorous training and will handle your disaster restoration with the highest standard of care.
Helping Our Customers Immediately.
Figuring out what steps to take when disaster strikes can be a daunting task. HRS is here 24/7 to walk you through the process and bring your home or business back to habitable condition(s).
Taking care of emergencies so you don’t have to.
At HRS, we understand the panic that can set in when your basement floods or a fire breaks out at your business. We are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to repair damage and give you peace of mind.