Where do House Fires Commonly Start?
According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), U.S. fire departments respond to more than 350,000 home fires every year. A house fire can start in any part of the home. They can be started by faulty electrical equipment, candles, cooking, and more. A fire can begin in any part of the home. But there are some areas of a house that are far more prone to fires than others. So, knowing where fires are more likely to start can help you prevent fire breaking out in your home. It will also help you decide where to install smoke alarms and where to locate fire extinguishers. Here’s an analysis of where house fires are most likely to start, and what the common causes of fires are.
Common Areas of the Home Where Fires Start
1. The Kitchen
It will come as no surprise that almost half of all home fires begin in the kitchen. It’s in the kitchen where we have hot oil and fat, and lots of electrical equipment. Most kitchen fires are avoidable. They are caused by leaving cooking unattended, combustible materials coming into contact with the stove, and dirty ovens or stovetops. As the kitchen is the most common place that home fires start, this is one place that everyone should have a fire extinguisher. You can’t extinguish a grease or oil fire with water. The water will spread the fire. You need a class B or class K fire extinguisher in the kitchen. You can also buy small fire extinguishing aerosols that are suitable for kitchen fires.
Bedrooms are a surprisingly common place for house fires to start. This is due to all the combustible materials that we have in them. Clothes, bed linen, and mattresses are all combustible. There is now a Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. But that wasn’t introduced until 2007. If you have a mattress made before then, it could be a fire hazard. It is recommended that you have smoke detectors in every bedroom in the home. You should also have a fire escape plan for each bedroom.
3. Chimneys and Fireplaces
Chimneys and fireplaces need to be kept clean. You also need to keep combustible items, like rugs and other fabrics away from the flames. Whenever you light a fire in your fireplace, residue from the smoke is deposited inside the chimney. Over time, that builds up and becomes a fire hazard. Poorly maintained chimneys can also be a problem. If the structure of the chimney becomes unsound, embers may escape the chimney walls. How often a chimney will need to be cleaned will depend on how often you use the fire. It is recommended that chimneys should be inspected at least once a year. Most people opt to have the chimney cleaned at the same time.
4. Laundry Room
The appliances in laundry rooms are a cause of house fires. This is usually due to a build-up of lint in dryers. To avoid this, clean out vents and filters regularly. If you can, only use washers and dryers when someone is home to keep an eye on them in case they overheat.
5. The Living Room
Living rooms often contain lots of combustible materials, like furniture and drapes. And they contain ignition sources like electrical appliances and candles. In fact, one of the most common causes of house fires are candles, which should never be left unattended.
6. The Attic
If you have a lot of stuff stored up in the attic, the chances are that is flammable. Old books, crates of things you never use anymore, and piles of old magazines. These are just a few of the combustible things that you might have up there. Although there won’t be many things in an attic to start a fire, there will be electrical wiring. If you have just moved into a new home, it’s a good idea to check the attic for any dangerous looking wiring.
7. Outside the Home
Three percent of house fires are started outside the home. They are usually started by bonfires, grills or fireworks. Whenever you are burning anything outside, keep a small fire extinguisher to hand. If you have fireworks or a bonfire, be careful not to allow embers or sparks to fall on your house or anyone else’s house.
Common Causes of House Fires
As we have already mentioned, home fires can start in any room. There many things in the average home that can cause a fire. Being aware of the dangers and being alert to those dangers is the best way to prevent fires. Here are some of the most common causes of home fires.
The number one cause of house fires is cooking. As we mentioned above, fires in the kitchen can be a caused by overheating pans, and cooking oil catching fire. They are often also started by fabrics, like dishcloths, oven gloves and loose clothing igniting on the stove. The message here is clear. Be careful in the kitchen, and don’t leave cooking unattended.
2. Heating Appliances
Heating appliances are another common cause of fires in homes. Both furnaces and portable heaters. Have your furnace inspected annually. Have your chimney inspected annually and have it swept regularly. Be especially careful with portable heaters. Keep them away from combustible items like clothing and furniture, and make sure they can’t topple over.
3. Electrical Equipment
Inspect electrical equipment regularly. Look for any signs of wear on the cords. Don’t overload outlets with too many plugs. Electrical projects are best left to professional electricians. A lot of home fires are caused by badly completed do-it-yourself electrical projects.
If you smoke, be careful about how you discard your cigarettes. Use deep ashtrays and keep ashtrays away from combustible materials. Be sure that all your butts are extinguished before you go to bed, and never smoke in bed. Ideally, you should only smoke outside. It’s less of a fire risk and it’s healthier for those you live with as well.
Candles look so nice, and some of them smell great too, but they are a fire hazard. Put candles in a candle holder before you light them. Make sure they are on a level surface, well away from any combustible materials. Don’t leave candles unattended, in case they fall over. And, always extinguish all candles before you go to bed.
6. Flammable Liquids
Be very careful with flammable liquids. Things like paint, solvents and thinners can all ignite very quickly if not stored properly. Ideally, store all flammable liquids outside the main building. Make sure the tops are securely fastened on the bottles and keep the bottles away from heat sources.
7. Kids Playing with Fire
Children do have a fascination with fire. So, be sure to teach your kids the dangers of fire and keep matches and lighters out of their reach.
8. Faulty Wiring
If the lights dim when you switch on an appliance, or fuses blow frequently, that could be a sign that you have some faulty wiring in your home. Faulty wiring can cause fires. If you are at all concerned about the wiring in your home, get it checked out by a licensed electrician or speak to your landlord.
9. Barbeques and Grills
Cooking and eating outdoors is great fun, but you need to be careful with barbeques and grills. Keep a small fire extinguisher nearby when grill. Keep barbeques and grills well cleaned. When you are using a barbeque, keep it well away from combustible materials, like table clothes. And, make sure loose clothing doesn’t catch fire.
10. Lights and Light Fittings
Light fittings can get hot if they are left on for a long time, so make sure that lamp shades are not too close to light bulbs. Also, check around the house and make sure that freestanding lamps are not in places that they can easily get knocked over.
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