An official investigation always occurs after a residential fire to determine how the blaze occurred, why it happened, and what can be learned from it to reduce the risk of similar tragedies.
Here are the most common causes of residential fires in the United States along with some helpful tips on how to reduce your risk. Avoid being another statistic by following our expertly crafted home fire safety checklist below.
The most trafficked area in the house is the kitchen, which is also the one place where fire danger is most likely to be. In fact, cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire related injuries. According to the USFA’s estimates, approximately 32% of residential building fires take place in the kitchen.
If you are using a Crock-Pot, air fryer, or any other counter top cooking appliance, make sure to check the hardware and electrical connection before usage. If any of the cords are damaged, or if any of the hardware isn't secure, do not use it until it’s repaired.
While the kitchen is usually bustling with family and friends, accidents happen most when the room is vacant. Fire officials recommend always having someone in the vicinity when food is cooking.
When the temperature drops and harsh winter sets in, it's time to dial up the heat in the house. These warming features can occasionally lead to accidents, usually due to improper maintenance. Failure to clean creosote buildup in chimneys is one of the leading causes of heating equipment fires. Creosote is a black, tar-like substance that attaches to the interior of chimneys over time, especially when homeowners use their fireplaces as a primary source of heat. It’s recommended that homeowners have their chimneys serviced on an annual basis by having a qualified professional clean the highly flammable creosote buildup.
It's also important to keep items that can catch fire at least 3 feet away from any heat source, be them portable or fixed. When using a space heater, it is critical to turn them off when leaving the room or going to bed for the evening. An unattended space heater has the capability to cause faulty wiring to overheat and combust.
3. Cigarette smoking
Kicking the habit once and for all not only dramatically improves the average smoker's life, but it also reduces the risk of residential fires, as smoking is one of the leading causes of home fire tragedies. In 2017, an estimated 12% of all fatal residential building fires stemmed from careless cigarette usage. Fire officials recommend smoking outside the home to avoid exposing various items in your home to a smoldering cigarette and hot ashes. Before walking away from a previously extinguished cigarette, ensure it is all the way out and dispose of the remains in an ashtray or bucket with sand.
As a leading contender for all residential fires, electrical induced fires can cause hundreds of millions of dollars in property losses. This data represents nearly twice the dollar loss per fire than nonelectrical fires. When using appliances, make sure that outlets appear normal and avoid plugging in cords that are damaged, whether they're frayed, loose, or bare. It is also imperative that only one heat-producing appliance (microwave, coffee machine, space heater, etc.) be plugged into the electrical outlet.
There's nothing like the "welcome home" smell of a scented candle, so inviting that it can often lead homeowners to forget that one is lit. Nationwide, 23 home candle fires are reported to fire officials on average per day. From 2012-2016, candles caused an average of 80 deaths and $264 million in direct property damage.
Homeowners should never leave a room unattended where a candle is burning, especially if there are curious young children or energetic pets present. Candles should also be placed in sturdy holders to reduce the risk of them tipping over and not placed close to anything combustible. Or simple support the equally as effective alternative, flameless candles. They smell just like the real deal without all the risk.
6. Safety Equipment
Taking the right fire safety precautions can go a long way. Unfortunately, sometimes even the best laid plans fall short. If disaster does strike, here are some proven fire prevention essentials all homeowners should consider.
Smoke alarms are an indispensable safety feature to homeowners that are easy to take for granted. Offering a blanket security system for the entire home, 3 out of 5 home fire deaths are the result of faulty smoke alarms. They should be properly tested each month and replaced with a new one every 10 years. When looking to find the best home fire alarms, homeowners may be presented with a variety of important safety features that should be carefully considered when outfitting their property.
If a manageable fire does occur in a home, a reliable fire extinguisher is a life saver. A majority of homeowners may find themselves wondering how often home fire extinguishers should be replaced. The short answer is anywhere between 5 to 15 years, dependent on a variety of factors. Some tell-tale signs that an extinguisher should be replaced or serviced are a cracked hose or nozzle, a missing or unsealed locking pin, and a low pressure gauge.
Want to learn more on how to make your home fire safe? For more information and resources, be sure to consult the National Fire Protection Association, as well as the U.S. Fire Administration. For all of your unique residential insurance solutions, speak with a local independent agent regarding your home's fire safety risk and how to choose homeowners insurance coverage.