Other Causes of Home Fires and Ways to Prevent Them

fire damageWhile cooking fires are the most common causes of fires in our homes, there are several other causes of fires that also put our homes at risk. One of the best things we can do is educate ourselves and our families on what the common causes of fires are and then look for ways to reduce our exposure to the greatest extent possible.  There are some causes of fires beyond our control, like the unlikely event of a vandalism that I mentioned in my last blog.  Here is what I found are common reasons/causes of fires and the most controllable/manageable ways you can prevent them.

Common Causes of Fires

  • Kids playing with fire – Another very common cause of fires that we all hear of fairly frequently is kids playing with matches or a lighter and not fully comprehending the risks they are taking.  It’s really important to be sure to teach your kids about fire safety and the reasons why they should not play with fire.  Of course, supervision is incredibly important as well but we can’t be all places at the same time so be sure to educate them via books, videos, and any other ways available to you (visit the local fire station, etc.).
  • Smoking – We all probably remember laughing at a relative that was falling asleep in their favorite chair back in the day with really long ashes on their lit cigarette, for me this was my grandpa… the messiest smoker in HISTORY! Thankfully he quit that habit years ago, and thankfully the amount of fires due to smoking have greatly decreased over the years. The best advice I found and support on this one is please do not smoke in your home. It is not only a fire hazard but it is just awful for the indoor air environment and harmful for those you share your home with
  • Heating – This is another common problem every winter especially if people don’t get their furnace serviced on a regular basis.   A related and more common cause of heating related fires are small space heaters (electrical or fueld-based).  These can lead to all kinds of possible problems including a short and/or electrical overload problem. For more information on safety with alternate heating methods, check out this blog: Keep Your Home Safe From Fires this Winter.
  • Electrical – speaking of electrical problems, they are another very common cause of house fires.  One of the leading culprits is the over-use of extension cords.  Surprisingly just because there is an open plug doesn’t mean you can plug just ANYTHING into it… Who knew??!!!  They can actually only safely pull so many watts so be sure to be very aware of the safe amount you can plug into any extension or extension cord.  If there is ever a doubt, you are probably much better off to hire an electrician to provide you with permanent wiring.  It is also very advisable to have an electrician perform an annual checkup on your home’s wiring.
  • Candles – As romantic as they can be set and also be a cheap way to provide light (especially in a power outage), for some reason we tend to forget that it is an open flame and that we shouldn’t just leave lit candles unattended. This is another great example of common sense and blowing out the candles immediately after they are needed should be made into a ritual, after all it could save your life. For more information on candle safety see Candle Fire Safety Tips.
  • Fireplace – this is an obvious source of problems, but probably not for the same reasons you are thinking.  Common problems with fireplaces range from unattended fires to improper servicing of the fireplace (not cleaning it and letting the chimney get backed up).  Another example is just not opening up the damper/flue and causing smoke damage to the home.  It’s also important to not cook in the fireplace (it’s not a camp fire) and to be careful of any kindling or fire starting products.
  • Dryers – There have been reports of dryer sheets that could lead to fires in the laundry area but it is far more common for improper dryer vents and venting to be the cause of a dryer related fire.  It’s also incredibly important to stay on top of clearing lint away from the dryer (under it, on top of it, behind it, etc.).  Treat this as highly flammable material and just keep your dryer well maintained.
  • Flammables in the House – there are a lot of products left around the home that are highly flammable (especially if the garage is attached to the home).  Be careful of where you place any flammable materials (fuels, oils, etc.).  Don’t place them next to a possible source of a fire as they can rapidly turn a bad situation into a disaster.  The simplest rule is to keep them contained and a away from the home to the greatest extent possible.
  • Christmas trees – REAL Christmas trees are indeed a fire hazard, but since the season has past, I am going to skip over this one for now. Closer to the next holiday season I will post Christmas fire safety tips. If you are super curious now and don’t want to wait to educate yourself you can check out this blog: This Holiday be Sure Not to Get Your Tinsel in a Tangle.

Here’s to keeping your home fire free for the rest of this winter! We can almost smell the spring flowers… Hang in there fellow Minnesotans!!!