The Top 5 Causes of Fire Damage and What You Can Do About Them

The Top 5 Causes of Fire Damage and What You Can Do About Them

A home fire can be catastrophically devastating. Once extinguished, you’ll likely find your home has suffered some degree of fire and smoke damage. Widespread water damage is also probable if the fire department was involved in putting out the blaze.  

Home fires can start in an instant and continue to rage through a home, damaging or destroying property and causing personal injury. It’s estimated fire departments respond to more than 350,000 house fires per year nationwide that cause nearly $7 billion in direct damage.

Not all fires start and burn the same way. For instance, oil and gas fires that involve combustible liquids differ significantly from electrical fires that result from malfunctioning appliances and wiring. No matter how they begin, house fires are scary—and they occur much more frequently than people might think.

We’ve put together this list of the top five causes of fire damage so you can take proactive steps to avoid a fire occurring in your Central Florida home.

Top 5 Causes Of House Fires and Fire Damage

While many house fires result from human carelessness or forgetfulness, others, such as faulty equipment or wiring, can occur due to circumstances out of a homeowner’s control. One thing’s for sure: After a fire, you need to act fast to minimize damage. A professional fire damage restoration and remediation company can help with fire damage removal and other disaster recovery steps to get your life back to normal as soon as possible.

Here are the major causes of fire damage and some fire damage tips on avoiding them:

Cooking Accidents and Mishaps

The number one cause of home fires and fire injuries is cooking accidents. They cause nearly half of all home fires. Two-thirds of them begin when food or other cooking materials ignite. The most common cooking fires start with frying foods on ranges or cooktops, with unattended pots and pans a factor in about a third of them. The peak day for home cooking fires? Thanksgiving is followed closely by Christmas Day and the day before Thanksgiving.

If you have an out-of-control cooking fire in your home:

  • Get everyone safely out of the house, close the door behind you, and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number to report the fire.
  • If the fire is a small grease one, you can first try extinguishing it with a lid. Slide the lid over the pan or pot and turn off the burner. Don’t remove the cover as the fire could reignite. Leave the cover on until the pan is completely cooled.
  • For oven fires, turn off the heat and keep the oven door closed.
  • Never throw water on the fire! Water only splashes the fire around and spreads it on the walls and counters. Oil fires must be put out with a fire extinguisher.

Here’s what you and anyone else who cooks in your family should know about staying safe in the kitchen:

  • Stay alert: If you’re tired or have consumed alcohol, just don’t use the cooktop or oven.
  • Stay in the kitchen: Whether you’re frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling your next meal, remain in the kitchen while the food is cooking. Be sure to set a timer to remind you something’s cooking.
  • Practice common sense: Oven mitts, food packaging, dish towels, potholders, plastic bags, and even curtains should be kept away from any appliance that produces heat or flames. A good tip is to store kitchen towels, potholders, and oven mitts in a drawer that’s a safe distance from the stove. It will help to remind you of the risk they pose.

Since the majority of fires caused by cooking involve frying, here’s how to safely cook with oil:

  • If the oil begins to smell or you start to see wisps of smoke, turn off the burner immediately and carefully remove the pan to a cool burner or trivet. Smoke indicates the oil is too hot.
  • Be sure to always heat oil slowly to the temperature you need for sauteing or frying.
  • Add food gently to the pan or pot to avoid oil splatters. If a fire does start in the pan, surrounding grease will add fuel to the flames.

Finally, always remember to shut the range, cooktop, or oven off when you’re through.

Fortunately, most cooking fires are entirely preventable. Just remember to always cook with caution and be as safe and careful as possible. A kitchen fire extinguisher provides another level of safety in reducing the risk of a house fire that originates in the kitchen.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers two handy resources you can download: a cooking infographic and a cooking safety tip sheet.

Heating Fires

The second leading cause of house fires, injuries, and damage is heating fires. Nearly 50,000 heating equipment fires occur in any given year. They result in 500 annual deaths, 1,300 injuries, and over $1 billion in direct property damage.

Most home heating fire deaths involve portable space heaters, but the leading contributor to home heating fires is the failure to clean heating equipment, including chimneys. People frequently leave heating equipment too close to combustible items like clothing, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and bedding. Unsurprisingly, nearly half of home heating fires occur in December, January, and February.

Here’s how to protect you, your family, and your home from fires caused by heating equipment:

  • Portable heaters and space heaters are convenient, but they’re also incredibly dangerous if not used with caution. They’re easy to knock over and, if left too close to furniture or walls, can pose a real hazard. It’s vital to keep space and portable heaters in specific, designated areas and out of harm’s way.
  • Keep anything flammable at least 3 feet away from heating equipment like furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, and portable heaters.
  • Have chimneys and heating equipment inspected and cleaned at least once a year by a qualified professional.

With these few simple safety tips and precautions, you can help prevent most heating fires. To read more tips, download the NFPA’s free heating safety tip sheet.

Electrical Wiring and Electronics Fires

There’s no denying electricity makes our lives easier. It can be easy, though, to forget how powerful it is and its potential to cause fire-related hazards and damage.

The third top cause of house fires is electrical lighting or distribution equipment. They represent about 10% of reported home fires per year. These fires cause $1.4 billion in direct property damage, cause over 1,100 injuries, and result in nearly 500 deaths annually. Wiring and related equipment account for about seven percent of all home fires. Plugs or cords, particularly extension cords, are involved in approximately one percent (3,500) of home fires.

Here’s what to look for in your home:

  • Electrical wiring fires are not uncommon and are mostly seen in older homes with outdated or faulty wiring. The wiring in these homes tends to have a buildup of dust and debris that affects the electrical system’s performance.
  • Older homes also commonly have bare wires that can come into contact with insulation.
  • An easy check for accumulated dust is to remove a light switch or outlet cover and see if there’s dust in the wall. If so, it’s a good idea to have a professional inspect and clean it out to protect against electrical fires.

Electronic equipment also causes fires, especially when outlets are overloaded with power or extension cords. To prevent electronic fires, make sure all appliances and electronics are adequately ventilated and have a dedicated plug. If an appliance like a toaster or microwave smokes or sparks when you plug it in, it’s a sure sign it’s not safe to use.

To help reduce the risk of fire from electronics and appliances, experts recommend having all electrical work done by a qualified electrician, including electrical inspections. The NFPA offers two safety tips sheets with indoor electrical and outdoor electrical precautions.

Smoking-Related Fires

Cigarettes, cigars, and pipes start an estimated 17,000 house fires each year, causing over $400 million in direct property damage. They’re responsible for five percent of reported home fires and 21% of home fire deaths.

Smoking puts your health, family, and home at risk. Smoking inside the home can be incredibly dangerous, especially if the person is lying down and falls asleep before putting out whatever they’re smoking. In fact, the NFPA reports smoking inside the home leads to more house fire deaths than any other cause.

One way to avoid a house fire due to smoking is to smoke outdoors. Certainly, never smoke while reclining on the couch or lying in bed. For more smoking safety tips, download the NFPA’s helpful tip sheet.

Fires Caused by Candles

They’re beautiful to look at and can be lovely to smell, but they also cause an estimated 7600 house fires per year that result in 80 deaths, 675 injuries, and $278,000 million in direct property. Christmas is the peak day for candle fires, and many families use lit candles for other religious celebrations at home.

About a third of candle-related fires start in the bedroom, with falling asleep one of the main factors. Sixty percent of the fires occur when the candle is too close to a combustible material.

To enjoy candles safely, never leave them unattended, and be sure to blow them out before you leave a room or go to sleep. They should also be kept at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn. You might also want to consider using flameless candles—many modern ones look and smell like the real thing! You can learn more about candle safety in this NFPA safety guide.

Fire Damage Removal

We hope you and your family never suffer fire-related damage to your Central Florida home. If you do, CFRS offers fire damage restoration services that include removal of fire damage caused by tobacco, soot, grease fires, and electrical/electronic fires. We’re Central Florida’s most trusted fire damage restoration company and promise to make the fire damage removal process as stress-free as possible.

A house fire is always scary for the people who live there. If your home has suffered fire damage, we know that speed, quality of service, and technological capability can make you feel more reassured. It also lessens the damage, limits further damage, and reduces removal costs.

For more than 20 years, CFRS has been helping Central Florida homeowners deal with fire damage. We’re also the area’s go-to source for water damage and mold damage, two problems you may also need to deal with after a house fire. Our leading-edge techniques decontaminate and dry affected areas as quickly as possible, ensuring the least disruption to your home and life.

To learn more about all the fire damage services we offer and how we can help you avoid future costly repairs, contact CFRS today. We provide the support you need to keep your Central Florida home and family safe from the disastrous effects fire damage can cause. We also offer 24/7 emergency services and can help you deal with your home insurance company.

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