The Top 5 Causes of Home Fires

Last week was National Fire Prevention Week.  Most fire officials across north Texas and the nation focus on fire prevention for the entire month.  A ceremony lead by The Hispanic Firefighters Association kicked off National Fire Prevention Week in Dallas to honor the 17 Texas firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty this year.  Special recognition was given to remembering Kenny Harris who died fighting the fire in the West Fertilizer Company plant explosion and Stanley Wilson who was crushed fighting a condominium fire in Dallas.

The ceremonies started with a moment of silence, followed with bagpipes and the inaugural Bravest Race 5K.  The focus on this year’s National Fire Prevention Week is to raise awareness on preventing kitchen fires, the leading cause of home fires.  In 2011, there were 364,500 home fires that were responsible for the deaths of 2,450 people and injuring 13,900 people.  The cost of the damaged homes amounted to over $6.6 billion.

The top 5 causes of home fires are:Hispanic

  • Cooking equipment / kitchen fires
  • Heating equipment
  • Careless smoking
  • Electrical Equipment
  • Candles

Kitchen Fires:  One of the leading causes of kitchen fires is the ignition of grease or oil.  If you’re cooking with grease or oil and using high temperatures, do not leave the cooking unattended.  Most kitchen fires happen when people become distracted and leave the kitchen for a minute or two.  Keep combustible items such as cooking mitts, hot pads, and dish towels away from stove tops when cooking, and do not wear loose clothing (especially with big sleeves) while cooking.

If a grease or oil fire does start, turn off the burner immediately and cover the burning pan with a metal lid.  Baking soda (not flour or baking powder) can also be used to put out a small grease fire.  Do not use water as this only spreads the grease or oil (it floats on top of the water) and spreads the fire.  Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen that is rated for kitchen fires (I’ll write more on fire extinguishers in two weeks).  Do not attempt to pick up the pan and carry it to the sink or fling it outside as you’ll either splash burning grease on you or someone else.

Heating Equipment:  Heating equipment accounted for an estimated 57,100 home fires in 2010.  Approximately 490 people died and 1,530 people were injured in fires caused by heating equipment.  Home space heaters, electric or gas powered, were among the leading causes of fire.  Keep all space heaters at least 3 feet away from combustible materials such as furniture, blankets, and curtains.  Never use a home heater to dry wet shoes or clothing.

If you have a wood burning fire place, have the chimney cleaned annually.  Chimney fires occur when there is a buildup of creosote on the chimney walls when wood does not burn completely.  Chimney fires account for 26% of all home fires.

Have an annual inspection of home furnaces and water heaters.  If you have a gas powered furnace, install carbon monoxide detectors to avoid death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Careless Smoking:  Smoking is the number 1 cause of preventable home fire deaths.  Almost 1,000 people (smokers and non-smokers) die in home fires caused by cigarettes and smoking materials.  More than 33% of all people who were killed in these fires were the children of smokers and 25% were friends and neighbors of the smokers.

If you smoke, do so outside.  Use deep ashtrays that are sturdily built, and make sure the cigarette is completely out.  Do not smoke in bed or on upholstered furniture where fires can be caused by a cigarette being dropped when falling asleep.

Electrical Equipment:   In 2011, approximately 47,700 home fires were caused by electrical equipment failure.  An estimated 418 people died in these fires and 1,570 people were injured.  The four main causes of electrical equipment home fires are:

  • Wiring and related equipment
  • Lamps, lighting fixtures and light bulbs
  • Cords and plugs
  • Transformers and power supplies

Prevention begins with not using small appliances and electronics that have frayed or loose cords or plugs.  Do not overload a plug or run cords and electrical wires under rugs, carpet, or heavy furniture.  I’m a do it yourselfer, but I know to call a licensed electrician in for anything other than the most basic project.

Candles:  I love the ambiance of burning candles.  Make sure candles are in a sturdy holder and on a level surface when in use.  Do not burn candles near combustible materials and keep them out of the reach of children and pets.  Consider placing a plate beneath a burning candle and make sure they’ve been blown out before leaving a room or your home.

Fire safety and prevention begin with implementing consistent common sense practices that are followed every time.  These practices will save lives, avoid injuries, and even avoid the financial pain from rebuilding your life after a fire.  Share your comments, experiences, and questions with us in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook page.  I’m sure we’ll all learn something from each other.

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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