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The Ten Most Common Causes of House Fires

House fires are a hazard that crosses every homeowner's mind at random points - at least long enough to change the batteries in the smoke alarm when it starts beeping incessantly.

Unfortunately, however, most of us don't think too much about a fire in our homes until one happens.

Today, we're giving you three minutes of reading time to think about the fire hazards in your home as we count down the top ten most common causes of house fires. Hopefully, it will inspire you to think about places in your own home that are vulnerable and take any necessary precautions to help you avoid a fire in your home!

1. Cooking Appliances

Most household fires start in the kitchen. The majority of these happen during normal cooking on your stove. Oil jumps out of the pan and ignites, a pan overflows in the oven and spills onto the heating element, or an unattended flame jumps to something nearby, like a towel, and ignites.

But there are other dangers lurking here too, like metal accidentally getting into the microwave or a pressure cooker or crockpot malfunctioning.

As a general rule of thumb, never leave cooking of any kind unattended. Keep towels, rags, and oven mitts away from hot elements or open flames. If you have to leave the house while an appliance is cooking, like a crockpot, make sure nothing flammable is left nearby to be ready fuel should a fire start.

2. Heating Elements

Whether it's a portable heating unit, like an electric or propane stove, or the built-in heating system in your home, heating elements rank high on the list of fire hazards in your home.

Keep furniture, laundry, blankets, and curtains clear of heating elements. If you heat your home using a wood stove, make sure you follow the recommended clearances for use.

Frequently check and replace filters in your furnace, and keep the area around them clear of combustibles.

3. Smoking, Inside and Out

Smoking, whether in your home or out, is dangerous for more than your health. A cigarette that isn't properly extinguished can smolder for hours before igniting. House fires started from smoking materials account for one in twenty house fires, and one in four home fire deaths.

If you smoke outside, keep a special bin with sand in it to hold your cigarette butts. The sand will help extinguish any remaining embers.

If you smoke indoors, make sure to fully extinguish cigarettes in an ashtray. Don't put butts into your indoor trashcan, only empty them into a metal trash bin outdoors.

4. Electrical Equipment

Smaller electrical appliances, like hairdryers and laptops, can start fires if they malfunction or have a frayed cord. Make sure to inspect and replace electrical cords that have exposed wires.

Another common cause of electrical fires in homes includes overloaded outlets. Keep the use of extension cords and power strips to a minimum to avoid overloading the system.

5. Burning Candles

Candles add a cozy ambiance to a room and smell delightful. But unattended candles can quickly turn from a little flame to a large fire.

When burning candles, make sure to burn them only in non-flammable containers. Keep other flammable items, like books, blankets, furniture, and decor away from lit candles.

Make sure never to leave a room with a candle burning. It only takes a moment for a spark to start a fire.

6. Little Fingers

Kiddos are curious about the world around them and like to mimic mom and dad. Fire is especially intriguing to little ones, who are likely to pick up items like matches or lighters and try them out to see how they work.

Keep items like these that can start a fire locked away. Installing covers on stove knobs so little hands can't turn on the oven is also a good rule of thumb.

In addition, teach kids about fire early on, so they have an awareness of its danger.

7. Old or Faulty Wiring

The signs of faulty wiring include:

  • Flickering lights
  • Lights that dim when another appliance is in use
  • Having to unplug one appliance before another can be used
  • Frequent blown or tripped fuses

If you experience any of these signs in your home, have your electrical system looked at by an experienced electrician. Faulty wiring can cause a fire to start in the walls of your home and is incredibly dangerous.

8. Barbeques and Smokers

Nothing is better in the summer than an outdoor barbeque, good food and friends relaxing in a backyard. But grills and smokers cause fires for several reasons.

Propane-fired grills should be inspected regularly to make sure no gas is leaking. Make sure to clean and maintain the grills to keep stray food or fats from starting a larger fire than you intend. Keep BBQs away from the sides of your home in case a fire were to start, and make sure the flame is completely extinguished when your cooking is finished.

9. Flammable Liquids

Liquids like gasoline, paint, alcohol, and chemical cleaners are well-known fire hazards.

Make sure they're stored in appropriate places, away from heating and electrical components and out of direct sunlight.

10. Light Fixtures

Lightbulbs can heat up a lampshade or nearby decor quickly, especially if the wrong size is being used. Consider switching out your lightbulbs for LEDs, which don't emit as much heat.

Make sure lamps are sitting on stable surfaces - a knocked over lamp can quickly start a fire if it lands on a flammable surface or object.

Most Common Causes of House Fires

Now that you know the top ten most common causes of house fires, you can take steps to make sure one doesn't happen in your home.

In addition to taking the above precautions, consider installing fire extinguishers in your home in the event a fire does start. Check out this fire extinguisher comparison chart to help you choose the best one!