According to statistics compiled by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were more than 366,500 house fires annually in the United States between 2007 and 2011. As a result of these fires, an average of about 2,600 people died each of these years from burns, smoke inhalation, or fire-related injuries. While the exact circumstances of each of these fires vary, most of them were preventable. Being aware of the common causes of house fires can help you act proactively to protect your family and your home.
According to the NFPA, eight of the most common causes of house fires in the United States between are:
Home cooking fires
Accidents in the kitchen have long been the leading cause of home fires in the U.S., causing more than 162,000 fires each year between 2009 and 2013, reports the NFPA. This is more than twice the number of any other accidental cause, meaning that taking precautions to prevent fires in the kitchen could prevent the great majority of house fires.
Most of these fires stem from unattended or forgotten food, or from combustible items too close to the stove. Pay careful attention to anything on or near the oven or stove while cooking, and invest in a fire extinguisher in case a fire does occur.
Home heating fires
Home heating — including fireplaces, space heaters and other similar devices — led to over 15 percent of house fires between 2009 and 2013, according to the NFPA. These heat sources keep your family warm in the winter, but they also pose a fire hazard when placed too close to furniture, drapes, blankets, or other decor.
Because many of these fires happen at night, home heating fires are also one of the deadliest causes of house fires in the U.S. If you use propane, electric, or other space heaters, it is paramount that you have working smoke detectors in your home.
Between 2007 and 2011, the NFPA statistics show that about 282,000 intentional house fires occurred in the United States each year. To prevent becoming a victim of arson, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends:
- Establishing a neighborhood watch program
- Installing outdoor security lighting
- Investing in a security system that restricts access to your home
- Removing brush, old cars, or other flammable materials near your home
Home electrical distribution/lighting
Problems with the home’s electric or lighting infrastructure lead to about 22,600 house fires each year between 2007 and 2011. Because it is not easy to spot faulty, aging, or dangerous electrical work, many people fail to take a proactive approach to prevent this type of house fire. Always have a licensed electrician install or update any wiring, and consider scheduling an inspection to check the integrity of wiring in older homes.
Smoking cigarettes or other similar tobacco products caused about 90,000 home fires in both 2010 and 2011. To prevent this type of fire, never leave tobacco products unattended after lighting.
Many smoking-related fires occur when the smoker falls asleep, drops the cigarette, and lights bedding or furniture on fire. It is never a good idea to smoke in bed, or while reclining on the couch or in a chair.
Candles are popular for home decor as well as fragrance. However, they can also be extremely dangerous, leading to 9,300 house fires annually between 2009 and 2013.
Never leave a candle burning unattended, and keep them out of the reach of children and pets while burning. Ensure you have extinguished the flame completely before going to bed or leaving the house.
We typically think of grilling as an outdoor activity, but grilling sparked about 8,900 house fires each year between 2009 and 2013 in the U.S. Most of these fires occur when the grill is too close to the house, or on a covered balcony. Never grill under an overhang or on a balcony and ensure there are several feet between the grill and siding or other flammable building materials.
Children have a natural curiosity about fire, but it may surprise you to learn that young children sparked 7,100 house fires each year between 2007 and 2011. Keeping candles, matches, lighters and other similar items out of the reach of children is the best way to prevent this type of fire. Teaching your children to understand the dangers of fire is also an important step in fire prevention.
Keep Your Family Safe
To take a little inspiration from Smokey the Bear, only you can prevent house fires. Now that you know the top causes of house fires, make sure you have protected yourself and your family from fires and burn injuries. Be sure to have a talk with your children about playing with fire and always ensure your smoke detectors are working. For more information on protecting your family from burn hazards, fires, and burn injuries, check out our blog.