Sitting around a campfire or enjoying a lovely, warm fireplace is a great way to spend an evening. But fires aren’t always cozy and enjoyable. Sometimes, they’re utterly destructive, causing serious damage to your home and potentially injuring you or your family—or worse.
Every year, there are over 350,000 reported house fires across the United States. Fires are responsible for more than $7.2 billion in property damage annually! Even a small fire is enough to require a full home restoration because of the damage from the smoke and flames.
To protect your home and family from the dangers of fires, keep an eye out for the most common causes of housefires and stop them before they can turn into a bigger problem.
How do you know when dinner’s done? The smoke alarms go off!
While it might be fun to crack jokes about someone’s culinary skills, cooking is the number one cause of housefires in the U.S. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), almost half of all house fires start in the kitchen.
It’s not hard to see why cooking is such a common source of fire. All it takes is one distraction, and whatever you’re cooking could overheat and turn into a disastrous situation that requires extensive home restoration work.
To make matters worse, grease fires are much, much harder to put out. If you pour water on a grease fire, you’ll just make the situation worse! Try to smother the flames if they’re small enough. For larger grease fires, keep a fire extinguisher handy.
Whenever you’re working in the kitchen, pay close attention to what’s cooking. Don’t leave the room to do something else, even for “just a second.” A second is all it takes for disaster to strike. If you do have to leave the kitchen, ask someone to keep an eye on your food. Better safe than sorry!
Heating equipment is nice to keep your house warm on a chilly winter day, but it’s also the second most common cause of housefires. You can go from warm and cozy to way too hot in a hurry if you’re not careful.
If you leave a portable heater too close to flammable materials like upholstered furniture or carpet, it could ignite and start a fire in your home. Be especially careful with kerosene and propane heaters. They actually produce a flame as the heat source. Electric heaters are much safer, but they can still start a nasty fire if you’re not careful.
Always keep heaters at least three feet away from anything flammable, and never leave them unattended.
While you might think people living in Florida don’t need to worry about space heaters, that’s not the case. Since temperatures are usually warmer, any space heaters you might own probably live in the garage or attic for months, if not years on end. There’s a chance that something might not work as well as when you first put it in storage. Be sure to inspect the heater before you use it. Faulty or broken mechanisms increase the risk of fire and could lead to a serious home restoration project in the future.
According to the NFPA, electrical fires are responsible for about 10% of all housefires. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to detect when there might be something wrong with your electrical system, since most of it is inside your walls.
These are some of the most common sources of electrical fires:
- Short circuits
- Faulty outlets
- Light fixtures
- Circuit overloads
- Extension cords
- Bad wiring
Short circuits, improper installation, or system overloads can cause the wiring to heat up or shoot sparks, which could ignite building materials inside your walls like drywall, wooden supports, or insulation.
Light fixtures and lamps are also a common cause of electrical fires. Lamps can get very hot if left on for a long time. If they have a cloth shade—as many lamps do—the heat could ignite the shade, starting a house fire.
If your wiring systems were installed properly, there’s very little risk of a house fire due to electrical issues. Modern systems have built-in protections to prevent fires even if something does go wrong. If you live in an older home, however, it’s a good idea to hire someone to take a look at your electrical systems to make sure they’re up to modern safety standards.
It’s also never a good idea to try DIY electrical fixes unless you absolutely know what you’re doing. Yes, you might save some money over hiring a professional, but the home restoration costs you’ll have to pay after you set your house on fire will eat up those savings pretty quickly!
Everyone knows that smoking isn’t the healthiest habit in the world, but it could be a lot more dangerous than you think. Smoking is the fifth-most common cause of housefires in the U.S. While that might not sound like a huge number, it’s by far the deadliest cause on this list, with a staggering 23% death rate.
In most cases, fires start when someone is smoking in their bedroom and falls asleep with a lit cigarette. The cigarette falls down and ignites blankets, bedspread, clothes, furniture, or any other flammable materials in the area. Since the person likely just fell asleep, the fire usually doesn’t end well…
Even if you stay awake long enough to finish smoking, cigarette butts can still ignite nearby materials after you’ve fallen asleep and cause a devastating house fire that requires expensive home restoration services and likely a trip to the hospital.
Smoking isn’t good for you normally, but smoking in bed is especially bad for your health, your family’s health, and your home’s health. If you smoke, do it outside (while you’re awake) and dispose of cigarettes safely. If you absolutely have to smoke inside, it’s best to do it over a sink to make sure the ashes can’t ignite anything in your home. The minor inconvenience is worth it to avoid home restoration costs and potential serious bodily harm.
Candles are great for setting the mood and adding some delightful aromas to any room. They’re also really good at starting housefires. According to the NFPA, candles are responsible for around 7,600 housefires and $278 million in property damage every year.
Candles left unattended or next to flammable materials are the most common culprits of candle-based housefires. It’s easy to forget a lit candle and walk away to do something else for a while. Or, worse yet, you could forget to blow out a candle before heading to bed for the night.
To avoid issues, it’s always a good idea to keep candles at least one foot away from anything flammable. They are an open flame, after all! Also, if you plan on leaving the room or house, make extra certain to blow out all the candles before you leave. That fifty-cent candle could cost you thousands in home restoration costs if you’re not careful.
Your Christmas decorations are supposed to make your house glow. Just make sure they don’t go overboard!
Christmas decorations cause hundreds of house fires every year, and most of them start right at the centerpiece of the entire season: the Christmas tree.
Many people use real evergreens as a Christmas tree. Over the course of the season, all the needles will slowly dry out, becoming more and more of a fire hazard as time goes on. In some cases, the lights on the tree will get too hot or a frayed wire can spark, and the entire tree will go up in flames in a matter of seconds! Once a fire starts on a dry tree, the needles are very hard to contain, and the fire will spread quickly throughout the house.
Even if you use a fake tree, you’re not entirely safe from a fire. While fake trees are much safer than real trees, they can still ignite if there’s too much heat or a spark, resulting in a giant mess, a bunch of smoke damage, and a big home restoration project.
Of course, the tree isn’t the only decoration around your house during the holidays. Your outside lights could also pose a threat to your house. If you hang lights around your gutters, the heat from the lights can ignite any dried leaves or sticks that you didn’t get around to cleaning out.
The best way to avoid a fire from your Christmas decorations (and expensive home restoration expenses) is to keep an eye on them. They might look pretty, but it’s never a good idea to leave your lights on while you’re sleeping or away from the house. Also, remember to clean out your gutters before putting up your outdoor decorations. It’ll increase your chances of having a happy holiday!
Chemical fires might be more common in industrial settings, but they can hit homes too. Many homeowners keep a wide array of flammable chemicals in the garage:
- Paint thinner
- Motor oil (and soiled rags)
All it takes is a minor spark, and these flammable materials could explode and cause massive damage to your home.
The best way to protect yourself from chemical fires is to store all your flammable materials in a safe manner:
- Use approved containers for all flammable chemicals and make sure they’re properly labeled.
- Don’t overfill containers. When the substance expands in the hot summer, it could break the container and spill all over the space, potentially reaching a spark.
- Store all containers at least 50 feet from any fire source or spark. That includes outlets, water heaters, furnaces, refrigerators, and space heaters.
Don’t leave dangerous chemicals in a place where they could possibly meet a potential ignition source. Otherwise, you might need a home restoration service to rebuild your garage—or maybe more!
Kids are always up to something. Just make sure that something isn’t playing with matches or lighters!
Children are another common cause of housefires. They love to explore the world and get into all kinds of mischief. For the most part, that’s just how kids learn, but you don’t want one of their “learning experiences” to end up destroying your property and resulting in expensive home restoration bills.
Talk to your kids about fire safety and take all necessary precautions to make sure you can catch a fire if they do accidentally start one:
- Explain the dangers of fire-starting tools like matches, lighters, and flammable liquids.
- Show them how to “stop, drop, and roll.”
- Teach them how and when to dial 911.
- Install smoke alarms in your kids’ rooms.
- Remember to check on your kids regularly.
To help prevent a disaster, make sure you keep all flammable and fire-starting materials out of your kids’ reach. If they can’t get to it, they can’t start anything. Of course, kids are crafty, so it’s still a good idea to check on it occasionally.
Open fires, pressurized containers, flammable fuels, greasy foods—what could possibly go wrong!? Indoor cooking isn’t the only culinary cause of housefires; outdoor grills can also start a fire if you’re not careful.
Leaving a grill unattended could give the fire inside enough time to build up. Then, when you open the lid, flames can shoot up and catch any nearby flammable materials on fire. This could include trees, leaves, or even your house!
Like kitchen appliances, always keep an eye on your grill when it’s in use. If you have something to do, find someone else who can watch it. Never, ever leave a grill unattended, or you might rack up some expensive home restoration bills after a devastating house fire.
It’s also a good idea to clean your grill thoroughly after each use. Grease can build up on the grates over time. As we’ve already discussed, grease is highly flammable and very hard to put out once ignited. Get rid of all that grease with soapy water and a good scrubbing. Not only will it increase your grill’s longevity and ensure your guests eat clean food, but it’ll also keep your backyard barbeques safe and fire-free.
Have a Home Restoration Team Ready in Case of a House Fire
Housefires can happen in the blink of an eye. Even a small fire is enough to cause serious flame and smoke damage to your home, belongings, and possibly your family members. Keep an eye on these common causes to protect yourself and your family from housefires.
If you do experience a fire, it’s important to work with a team that knows what to do after a house fire. At Central Florida Restoration Solutions, we have over 25 years of home restoration experience, helping Florida homeowners get their lives back in order after a fire. Our trained experts will help you salvage any belongings, clean up the fire and smoke damage, and restore your home to its former condition.
Do you need home restoration services? Contact the pros at CFRS for all your fire, smoke, mold, and water mitigation needs.