An accidental fire can start with frightening randomness, spread out of control in seconds, and ultimately destroy a house. Even tiny fires that are quickly extinguished may cause thousands of dollars in damage and put the lives of everyone in the house at risk.
Unlike other types of property damage, most household fires start because of human error. Therefore, understanding the most typical causes of home fires can preserve lives and property. When you know what to look out for, you can make better-informed decisions within your house and, hopefully, avoid these common causes of household fires.
House fires often ignite from cooking accidents. You may leave your kitchen unattended momentarily and return to flames and smoke. Grease fires are common, especially since grease becomes flammable and can catch fire without a flame. Once the grease is on fire, it’s tough to put out. Also, plastic utensils and oven mitts can quickly start kitchen fires if left too close to a burner and overheat.
Always use caution when working with your oven or stovetop. To minimize the risk of a housefire in your kitchen, follow these tips:
Don’t use the oven or stove if you’ve been drinking or are feeling drowsy.
Avoid going elsewhere while preparing a meal on the stove, grill, or broiler. Turn off the stove or oven if you need to leave the kitchen, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
Keep anything flammable, such as oven mitts, wooden or plastic utensils, food packaging, towels, or drapes, away from the cooktop.
Keep pan lids, fire extinguishers, and other helpful tools nearby anytime you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Although some kitchen fires are unavoidable, it’s better to know the risks and plan than throw caution to the wind and end up with a fire you can’t put out.
2. Heating Appliances
Having a reliable heater is a must when the weather turns cold. However, certain heating appliances can increase the risk of a household fire. In particular, kerosene and other fuel-based heaters pose a significant risk. If not adequately managed, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces can also lead to a home fire.
Even if you keep the heating appliances in your home well-maintained and follow the directions, there’s still a fire risk. Fabrics and other combustibles left near heaters are a fire hazard. When drapes or other materials come into touch with the coils of an electrical heater, they may overheat and start a fire.
No matter what you use to heat your home, these guidelines can help lower your home’s fire risk:
Always check your heater before using it, and make sure it’s in excellent working order by referring to the manual. It is dangerous to keep a heater on while you are away. Almost all space heaters come with cautionary notes against using them unsupervised.
To avoid a potentially disastrous situation, keep your space heater at least three feet away from flammable materials like curtains, clothes, blankets, and furniture.
If your home relies on a furnace during the winter, call a professional to inspect it once a year to ensure it is running correctly. Always have a professional clean and examine your chimney and heating system once a year.
Think about upgrading from manual space heaters to those that turn off automatically in the event of overheating or being knocked over.
3. Electrical and Wiring Issues
You probably don’t think about the wiring in your house as a primary cause of home fires. Yet, faulty or dated wiring is another common issue for homeowners.
Most electrical fires result from an overcharge of current in the circuit or a short circuit that causes sparks. These sparks then burn nearby building materials and eventually result in flame formations. Unfortunately, these fires often start without anyone noticing because they are often hidden behind drywall and other surfaces. Also, these fires commonly occur while residents are asleep, which makes them all the more dangerous.
If you live in an older house, it’s imperative to have an electrician inspect the wiring. Also, look for any signs of electrical issues, such as breakers frequently flipping, smells of smoke, or problems when you plug items into certain outlets.
4. Holiday Decorations
Although families enjoy decorating their homes for holidays like New Year’s, Independence Day, Halloween, Christmas, and Hanukkah, some potential dangers are associated with doing so. Lights, evergreen trees, and candles can all start fires when not carefully monitored.
LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are much cooler to the touch and should be used instead of traditional incandescent bulbs for decorating the inside or outside of your home. If you set up a real evergreen tree in your home, properly water it and take it down as soon as the holidays are over. If you light candles for holiday celebrations, extinguish them before bed and keep any flammable materials away from the candles while they are lit.
Candle fires cause hundreds of preventable injuries, fatalities, and thousands of dollars in property damage yearly. The soft glow of candlelight complements family meals, and many people burn scented candles to enhance their living space. However, you should proceed cautiously anytime you light a candle in your home.
Place candles in a safe, heat-resistant container apart from flammable materials. Never leave candles unattended; put them out before leaving the room or going to sleep. Also, keep burning candles a minimum of one foot away in all directions from flammable and combustible items.
If you have children, always supervise burning candles and keep matches and lighters out of reach. If matches or lighters are left where children can get them, they pose as much risk as the candles. Make sure candles are also far away from pets who could knock them over.
Following these simple safety precautions can help reduce the likelihood of a candle fire. You can also substitute candles with other forms of lighting and scent-enhancing products.
Smoking is a leading cause of yearly property loss and human casualties in the United States. Carelessness with cigarettes is a significant contributor to home fires. It’s not uncommon for people to nod off while smoking or discarding cigarette butts on upholstery, furniture, and other combustibles. Throwing away hot ashes into a garbage bin, where they might catch fire, is another preventable risk.
The best option is to smoke outside and discard of your butts properly. If you must light up inside your home, do it in a well-ventilated area, or at least use a sink or an ashtray to lessen the likelihood of starting a fire inside the house.
7. Chemicals or Gasses
Chemical reactions are a leading cause of fires in homes and commercial and industrial environments. Most house fires involving chemicals start when the volatile vapors released by fuels like gasoline and other petroleum liquids reach their flash point or come into contact with a flame. Spontaneous combustion is another prevalent type of chemical fire, occurring when chemicals combine with oxygen in the air to generate enough heat to ignite.
Keep all fuels and chemicals in their original containers and store them in cool, dry areas. The gasoline or other fuel used in lawn equipment is a typical cause of these blazes.
These are some tips to secure gasoline safely:
Put your trash in a proper bin. A red plastic container with appropriate container marking is the best option for storing gasoline.
Put at most 95% of the contents into the container. This provides breathing room for the vapors within the container, preventing them from bursting it.
Gas vapors should be in sealed containers to prevent them from reaching a heat or ignition source.
Keep the container at least 50 feet away from any heat source, including a water heater, space heater, or furnace, as well as any pilot lights. The best place to keep these fuels is in a separate garage or shed. If none is available, gasoline canisters should be held on the outside wall of an attached garage.
Chemical fires may also be caused by rags soaked in oil that catch fire for no apparent reason. Never put rags that have been drenched with oil or chemicals in storage. It would be best never to store them in a pile since the fumes will react with the air and produce heat. The oil on rags may evaporate by laying it out in the sun. These may be cleaned and reused when they have dried completely.
Paint thinners, mineral spirits, and other flammable liquids should be kept in a fireproof cabinet at a place that is at least 10 feet away from any occupied areas. Maintain a secure seal on all containers.
8. Grills and Fire Pits
Many homes have grills and fire pits for use during the summertime when friends and family gather outside to enjoy the weather. Fire pits and grills may be a great way to bring people together for a good time, but they also present a severe risk of fire if not utilized and maintained safely.
The proximity of grills and fire pits to combustible materials is a leading cause of fires. Keep your grill or fire pit in a well-ventilated location, far from flammable objects like patio cushions, umbrellas, or nearby trees. Propane tanks and other possible fuel sources should be kept far from the barbecue or fire pit. These materials may easily catch fire if a single ember from a nearby grill or fire pit lands on them.
Lack of supervision is another element that can raise the risk of fire. Never leave a grill or fire pit unattended, mainly if children or pets are in the area. A slip in attention, however brief, may have dire consequences. Pets should be kept on leashes, and children should be supervised around grills and fire pits to prevent burns and accidents.
Another common cause of fires involving grills and fire pits in the home is careless fuelling. Grills and fire pits should only be used with certified fuels; never use gasoline or lighter fluid. Explosive burns and out-of-control flames are possible results of contact with these substances. For safety’s sake, always follow grill or fire pit fuelling guidelines provided by the manufacturer.
Furthermore, flames may start in grills and fire pits if not adequately maintained. Fires may begin if grease and other particles accumulate on the grates. Cleaning your grill or fire pit regularly can prevent grease and dirt accumulation. Inspect the grill or fire pit for any damage or wear and tear that might present a safety issue. Maintaining your grill or fire pit can help avoid fires and extend its useful life.
When Fires Happen, We’re Here to Help Clean Up
No one wants to deal with a household fire, but they do occur. Whether it’s a small kitchen fire or a much larger disaster, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to proceed. Also, you have much larger issues to worry about, like your family’s health and well-being.
The good news is, Valley Restoration and Construction is here to help. We want you to take care of yourselves during this difficult time and leave the fire cleanup and restoration to us — it’s what we’re trained to do.
Our professionals are IICRC-certified in fire and smoke restoration and will be there for you whether you need a basic fire clean-up, soot removal, or total reconstruction and repair. We are proud to serve our community in this way, and want you to feel like you’re in safe hands throughout this process. Call us anytime, and we will help you pick up the pieces after a home fire or other natural disaster.
One of the most important investments many people make is the purchase of their home or business premises. If something happens to it, the repercussions can be immense. Seeing your property after a fire or flood is a traumatic experience.
Thankfully, fire, water, and mold damage can be mitigated and restored by an experienced company specializing in emergency restoration.
Many property owners wonder what emergency mitigation and restoration is and whether it is necessary. It’s good to understand what these emergencies involve and how timely mitigation benefits your most important investment, so that you are prepared should it ever come to that.
Natural disasters happen: be prepared
A natural disaster at home can be overwhelming.
Water can flood parts or whole segments of a house and destroy electrical devices, clothes, furniture, and the floor, among others. If left unattended, water damage can also lead to mold and cause long-term damage.
Fire can burn ceilings, windows, and belongings and cause smoke damage that is particularly difficult to get rid of. Even as you put out the fire, the retardants and chemicals that fire extinguishers use can be hazardous and hard to clean.
What should you do in case of a natural disaster?
In the event of a natural disaster, the first step is to make sure everyone in your household or business is safe and accounted for.
Then, call the fire department if there is a fire. Turn off the water mains in case a ruptured pipe is causing water damage. In both cases, shut down the electrical main: fire melting cables can be as deadly as water leaking into light switches and power outlets.
The next step is to leave the house and call a reputable and trustworthy emergency restoration company.
When should I call my insurance company after a natural disaster?
Right after you call your insurance company, ask an emergency restoration company to assess the damage without interfering in any way with the actual damage. The restoration company can be onsite within a couple hours or less, whereas it may take the insurance company a few days to come out. While you are working with the restoration company, the insurance company can start their process and determine policy limitations, if any. If it turns out to be a small loss (less than or close to deductible), then the claim can be withdrawn at no consequence.
The company’s experts will come to appraise the damage: for instance, fire damage usually involves water damage, as water hoses are used to put out the fire. Experts will know whether mold will develop in the flooded parts of the building.
The emergency restoration experts will give you a general idea about the potential cost and their thoughts on what an insurance company is bound to cover. This can save you a lot of money—and hassle—down the road.
Do not clean up before the insurance company has inspected the property
Homeowners should never clean up before the insurance company has come to assess the damage. Insurance investigators need to see the whole damage without any prior intervention.
Once the danger is over and the insurance company has inspected the damage, a homeowner can begin with emergency mitigation and emergency restoration.
If it is not a significant loss, the restoration company will take photos. If given permission by the homeowner, they can work with the insurance company directly to determine the needed scope of work and resolve the damage according to the coverages of your policy.
What is the difference between emergency mitigation and restoration?
While some use the terms interchangeably, they mean quite different things.
What is emergency mitigation?
Emergency mitigation involves stopping any further damage to the house from fire, water, or the elements.
Emergency mitigation requires specialists to remove damaged furniture, debris, and damaged materials like drywall and flooring. Mitigation is also about ensuring the home’s structural stability and protecting its integrity—and your safety—by boarding broken windows and preventing any further damage.
If parts of the building such as the roof, windows, or the entrance door are exposed to the elements, emergency mitigation makes sure these are provisionally fixed until emergency restoration begins.
Emergency mitigation is all about stopping further damage to the building.
What is emergency restoration?
Emergency restoration involves returning the building to its former condition.
It covers everything from repairing the damage to cleaning, fixing, painting, or doing anything else that is necessary to make the building once again safe, habitable, and pleasing to the eye.
How do you restore a water-damaged house?
Water emergency mitigation requires a thorough inspection and assessment of the damage.
An expert will know where you may have hidden water damage, beyond what you can see at first glance. Specialists can detect hidden moisture. They will make sure that the water extraction process starts immediately: the sooner the water is extracted, the less the water damage or risk from mold.
Once the initial inspection is complete, the restoration crew will follow these steps:
1. Water extraction
Water mitigation means extracting the water from the house with powerful pumps that remove the standing water.
Places such as basements are particularly difficult to extract water from. Unfortunately, they are also the most prone to water and mold damage.
Be prepared for the fact that some of your belongings will be discarded. Damaged parts of the house such as wet ceiling panels will have to be replaced. To ensure your safety, restoration crews also pay extra attention to the electrical system, plugs, and cables that may have been damaged.
2. Drying and dehumidifying after water damage
Once all water has been removed, the emergency mitigation crew will start the drying and dehumidifying process.
The drying process goes further than drying the belongings that were salvaged. The crew will also dry wooden floors, carpets, and anything that can be restored. A mitigation company will also make sure that any lingering moisture is dried and will monitor the moisture levels to make sure that there is no underlying problem.
3. Mold and residual moisture monitoring
Moisture monitoring is necessary to confirm there is no mold.
If any mold is found, the emergency mitigation crew will take care of the problem and clean up with the appropriate equipment and detergents.
A professional emergency mitigation service will also ensure your safety by checking for category 3 water, aka black water. This contains unsanitary agents, harmful bacteria, and fungi that can lead to infections, illnesses, and long-term respiratory problems. If you come into contact with black water you risk even more serious health risks and even death.
4. Sanitizing, deodorizing, disinfecting
If the water came from outdoors or from a broken sewage pipe, or if black water is found, the property will require disinfection to make it safe and clean for habitation.
Once all water damage has been mitigated, the emergency restoration company will sanitize and deodorize the property, to verify there is no lingering moisture smell and that your house is once again suitable for living.
How do you restore a fire-damaged house?
In case of fire, mitigation deals with two important consequences: water damage and smoke damage.
The fire mitigation crew will first inspect and evaluate the damage to the building structure and to your belongings by both the water used to put out the fire and the smoke.
The specialists will then make an inventory of what is salvageable and what is not.
They will dispose of everything that is beyond repair or cleaning. This includes belongings, burnt floorboards, carpets, and other features. Fire-damaged areas of the house will be cordoned off from the rest of the house so that restoration work can begin there.
The crew will then remove all soot from any salvageable items and return them to their previous condition.
Once the initial fire inspection is complete, the steps below will be followed:
1. Water damage during a fire
The water used to put out a fire often causes its own damage. This water can linger on, especially in basements and behind walls, and cause mold.
A professional mitigation company will remove water with powerful pumps and will verify there is no lingering moisture or mold in the house.
2. Smoke damage during a fire
Smoke infiltrates everything and needs specialized equipment to get rid of.
Specialized fire mitigation companies know there are different types of smoke such as wet, dry, or soot smoke. These require different approaches during the cleaning process.
The fire mitigation crew will use specialized equipment that absorbs soot and smoke from walls, floors, ceilings, and other surfaces. The crew has the appropriate material and equipment to remove smoke odor from buildings and make them livable and pleasant again.
Lingering smoke can permeate a building and linger on for a long time, making it highly detrimental to people’s health. Therefore, it is essential to remove it immediately and effectively.
Smoke deodorization is an essential step in making your home safe again.
3. Cleaning up fire retardant chemicals
A crucial step of fire mitigation involves cleaning up the fire retardant chemicals used to put out the fire.
While these chemicals are very good for limiting a fire, they should not be breathed in. A professional team knows how to clean up them and make your home safe to live in once again.
4. Restoring the damage
Once all of the above is complete, it is time for the restoration. In some cases, the fire damage is extensive and requires significant structural reconstruction.
Fire restoration involves repairing all the damaged parts of the house such as windows, ceilings, wooden floors, wooden beams, doors, etc.
Experienced emergency restoration experts will guide you through the reconstruction process.
Make the most out of a disaster
Natural disasters are called emergencies for a reason: they are distressing events. But they can also be an opportunity for you to make the changes you have been dreaming about.
If your insurance company pays for the restoration, you can invest a little extra money to make the improvements and changes you have been meaning to. A more modern kitchen? A remodeled bathroom? A new wooden floor? Perhaps a flood or a fire can be the extra push you need to make your dream home come true.
Whatever your need after a natural disaster, Valley Restoration and Construction can help. Our emergency mitigation & restoration crews will restore your house to its pristine condition. Contact us online or call us now on 970-964-4437!
After a house fire, there are several steps you need to take to stay safe and recover your belongings.
Take care of insurance.
Contact your insurance company. Most insurance policies cover disasters such as fires and fire damage. Get a hold of your insurance to know what your options for recovery are.
Get a fire report. Fire reports are public documents that detail all of the more specific things that took place during the fire. It helps fire departments and your insurance company will want a copy.
Make a list of items you lost. Your insurance can better help you cover what you lost if you have a list of damaged or destroyed items. Save the receipts for any new items you buy so you can prove the damaged possessions as lost for your taxes and insurance.
No insurance? If you don’t have any insurance, there are plenty of other organizations that are still able to help you. Salvation Army, Red Cross, and religious or public organizations are all there to help.
Find a place to stay.
It’s unsafe to go back into your damaged home, so you will need to find a place to stay with friends of family while your home and belongings are restored.
Look over your finances and other documents.
Sadly, even though you are unable to live in your home, you will often have to continue to make payments on the property. Talk to the lender for your mortgage and find out what options are available.
You will also want to consider credit cards you lost in the fire. Report any losses to your credit card company.
As far as burnt money goes, try to handle it as little as possible. Put any damaged bills baggies or plastic wrap to try and preserve it. If the bills are only slightly damaged, you can replace it at your closest Federal Reserve Bank or the Treasury.
Check for any lost documents and take the necessary steps to replace them. These may include:
Life certificates (birth, marriage, death, citizenship papers, as well as wills)
Discharge papers from the military
Medicare cards or social security cards
No matter what, wait to enter your home until you know it’s safe. The fire department or other authority will let you know when it is okay to enter again. If you’re property has caught fire at any point, Valley Restoration and Construction offers fire restoration services to help! Contact us at 970-964-4437 to get started.