A fire can destroy a home and everything inside it, forcing homeowners or tenants to find temporary shelter and start over again from scratch. In some cases, house fires may even result in injuries or worse, fatalities. You probably know the importance of testing your smoke alarms to assure they can properly detect a fire but are you also taking proper safety precautions to prevent a fire from occurring in the first place? Continue reading to learn about the most common causes of home fires and what you can do to stop them.
Kitchens are the number one source of house fires – usually due to leaving food unattended while cooking. It’s not just hot frying pans and boiling water, either. Even toasters can cause a fire if the heating elements fail to turn off or if crumbs are left in the unit. To reduce your risks, remain in the kitchen at all times when microwaving or cooking with your stovetop, toaster oven, or other appliance. If baking, always set a timer so as not to forget about your food. It is also recommended that you clear your surrounding countertops of flammable objects like oven mitts and paper towels when cooking.
Whether you enjoy the fragrance they emit or the soft lighting and ambiance they provide, you probably have at least one candle somewhere in your home. As beautiful as they may be, though, candles are responsible for thousands of house fires each year, often because someone has fallen asleep while one is still burning or because a child or pet causes the candle to come close to a combustible material. You can reduce your risks by blowing out candles before bed and keeping them out of the reach of children and pets. Alternatively, you can prevent candle-related fires altogether by sticking to flameless options instead.
It’s that time of year again when many people head outdoors and fire up the grills for the tastes and flavors of summer. Unfortunately, the fire doesn’t always stay inside the grill where it’s supposed to. To avoid losing your deck or perhaps even your home to a grill-related fire, be sure to grill away from the eves of your home, rails of your deck, and any shrubs and trees in your yard. You should also start with a clean grill surface that is free of build-up, and make a point to remain attentive to grill at all times while cooking.
Did you know lint can travel into your vent duct and get trapped in ‘low points’ that sag in the hose? Over time, this can lead to a fire hazard if it’s not removed. To avoid a laundry room blaze, be sure to clean the lint screen with every load you dry, and check your vent ducts for buildup. It may also be possible to swap out an old accordion-style vent duct for a short metal version that will not ‘sag.’
Some of the most common causes of electrical fires are old, faulty wiring and overloaded outlets. If you have a very old home, it may be time to upgrade your wiring to meet modern standards. This could include implementing shock and spark-detecting ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). It is also wise to unplug electronics when they are not in use and only use extension cords sparingly and temporarily. You should also inspect your home for loose outlets, avoid forcing a plug into an outlet, and only use light bulbs with wattage supported by your fixtures.
Space heaters make for quick and efficient heating of small spaces, but they can also spark a fire if left on an unsteady surface or too close to combustible materials. Lower the risk of a portable heater-related blaze by operating your heaters on flat, level surfaces and away from furniture, clothing, curtains, and other flammables. Also, never leave your heater running unattended.
Spontaneous combustion is possible when flammable liquids are integrated with combustible materials and exposed to oxygen. For example, use old rags to stain furniture and then throw them in a pile to dry, they could produce heat and cause a fire. That is why it is important to follow manufacturer instructions for proper disposal of combustible liquids and materials.
Have a Plan
Even with an emphasis on prevention, you still need a plan in place in the event of a fire. Keep fire extinguishers in your home, and check your smoke detectors regularly. If you experience a grease fire, do not use water or a fire extinguisher; instead, smother the fire with a pot lid if possible to safely do so. Remember that fires can get out of control quickly. Always remove everyone safely from your home as quickly as possible and dial 9-1-1. Then, contact your insurance agent to begin the claims process, including your coverage for temporary shelter if your home is no longer habitable