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.
More than 40% of house fires start in the kitchen. Ovens, stovetops, microwaves, and other electrical appliances are responsible for most kitchen-related fires.
The presence of hot oil and other oily substances make fires in the kitchen more hazardous and dangerous, especially since many don’t realize that the worst possible thing you can do is throw water onto a flaming pan.
As mitigation, restoration, and reconstruction specialists, we have witnessed numerous fires that started in the kitchen and spread into the rest of the house. We strongly advise homeowners to make sure their kitchens are safe and clean and to have fire extinguishers, fire blankets, and fire alarm systems installed to mitigate any fire that starts there.
Follow the tips below to ensure your home’s safety!
Small Steps to Ensure Your Kitchen Is Fire-Proof
Keep Your Kitchen Clean
A clean kitchen is a safe kitchen.
Grease and oily substances can be kindling for fire so keep your stovetop and oven clean. Food remnants in the oven can become hazardous with high temperatures. Greasy stains on your stovetop can heat up and cause a fire to spread quickly.
Keep Children Away from the Kitchen
No matter how much you want to introduce your 3-year-old to the wonders of cooking, you should be extra careful when having children in the kitchen. For maximum safety, install strap locks onto the oven door and stove knob stops to make sure that toddlers can’t fiddle with them.
Supervise Your Cooking
We all do it and it’s wrong: putting a pan or pot to boil, fry, or bake and then walking away for “just a second” to make a phone call, clean up, iron some clothes, watch some TV, or read a book.
Unfortunately, it is easy to lose track of time. You should constantly supervise your pots and pans, especially in the case of frying. Always be alert to the possibility that high temperatures and oil can easily lead to fire!
Don’t Use Your Oven for Storage
It’s the time of the year for the elf to get off the shelf and… find itself inside an oven. A quick Internet search will show you how easy it is for the poor elf to turn into a lump of coal. Even when it’s not the elf who’s on fire, it can be a pot or leftover food. When you lack storage space, it is tempting to put your pans, pots, or even food into the oven. However, while convenient, if you try to preheat your oven with these still inside, you risk a fire. Plastic from pot handles, for example, can melt and burn.
Don’t Leave an Empty Pan on a Hot Burner
After you’ve cooked and drained your pasta, don’t put the empty pot back on the hot burner. At best, you risk destroying your pot. At worst, the bottom of the pan can get so hot that it causes a fire.
Don’t Wear Loose Sleeves
It may come as a surprise how many people get their sleeves burnt while cooking. Don’t wear loose sleeves or any clothing that has tassels or other accessories hanging. These could easily catch fire from your stovetop as they slide over it.
Likewise, don’t leave kitchen tools, tea towels, and other flammable material near a hot stove: they could easily melt or catch fire.
What Should I Do If a Fire Starts in the Kitchen?
Don’t Immediately Pour Water
Our first instinct is to pour water on fire. Yet, in the kitchen, and depending on the fire cause, this may be the worst thing to do. When you pour water on burning oil and grease you are spreading the fire even further, causing more damage and perhaps even an explosion.
Instead, and if your fire is manageable—for instance, a pan or pot that’s caught fire—you should smother the fire to deprive it of oxygen. That could be something as simple as putting on a lid, a fire blanket, or baking soda.
If you can, turn off the oven or the stovetop. This will leave the fire without any further fuel, making it easier to put it out. If the fire started in the oven, keep the oven door closed to stop the fire from spreading.
Call the Fire Department
If the fire is too extensive, close your kitchen door and get out of the house. Remember to close all the doors from the kitchen onwards to stop or slow down the spread of fire throughout the house. Make sure all members of the households are accounted for and out of harm’s way. Call the fire department right away.
If You Smell Gas in Your Kitchen
Never turn on your stovetop or oven if you smell gas in your kitchen. Open the windows as wide as possible and call a professional to identify the problem. Avoid breathing in the gas, close the door, and stay out of the room. Turn off the main shutoff valve, which is usually located just before the gas meter.
Fire Equipment for Your Kitchen
To keep your house safe and make it as fireproof as possible, you should invest in fire equipment.
A well-maintained fire alarm system is the first step toward ensuring your kitchen is safe. Even if there are some false alarms, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
A fire blanket located close to the stovetop can quickly stop a small fire from spreading. A fire blanket is made of strong fireproof material. When you throw the blanket onto a fire, you deprive the flames of oxygen, letting you put out the fire with ease.
A fire extinguisher can also help you put out a fire and spare your home from further damage. However, remember that not all fire extinguishers are suitable for all kinds of fire. An ABC dry powder fire extinguisher can be used on most kinds of fires, including class A, B, C, and electrical fires:
A class A fire will burn flammable solids as fuel, e.g. wood and paper.
Class B fires burn flammable liquids, e.g. petrol and paint.
Class C fires burn flammable gases, e.g. propane and butane.
Electrical fires involve electrical equipment.
Class F fires will burn cooking oils and fat, e.g. from a deep fat fryer like a chip pan. Because of the extremely high temperatures involved, class F fires require a wet chemical fire extinguisher.
Valley Restoration and Construction Is Available 24/7
If, despite all your best efforts your kitchen catches fire, Valley Restoration and Construction is available 24/7 at 970-964-4437 to mitigate any fire damage and restore your kitchen and home.
Call us now at 970-964-4437 or contact Valley Restoration and Construction. We are available 24/7 online and can take care of basic fire clean-up, soot removal, or total reconstruction and repair of a fire-damaged kitchen.
Being prepared is the best way to protect your family. When it comes to children, parents need to ensure the little ones have a clear idea of how to react in case of fire.
Teaching children about fire safety is the best way to prepare them in case of an emergency. It’s also the most productive way to protect them when a fire emergency happens.
Parents can teach their children two things: how not to cause a fire and how to exit your home if there is a fire. Both lessons are crucial to their safety.
This article explains the things you need to teach your children and suggests some fun ways to do this.
Teach Children about Fire
Not everything is a game, of course. Parents can explain to children what fire is and how it is caused. If your children are old enough, you can explain the fire triangle, i.e. that fires require heat, oxygen, and fuel to start and burn.
Toddlers, on the other hand, should be simply taught not to play with matches, candles, and lighters. It is essential to explain to children in simple words how fires start and how they can destroy their house and hurt them.
When to Put out a Fire
Older children can learn how to put out a fire using a fire blanket or even a fire extinguisher once they have alerted you. This, in itself, can be great fun for kids but whether you should allow it or not depends on the child. As a parent, you will know the right age and if the child is ready to handle such a responsibility or should simply head out as fast as possible.
Even if you don’t teach them how to put out a fire, you should stress the need to avoid at all costs throwing water on fires, especially electrical ones and oil-based ones like a burning pan, as this can result in serious injury and even death.
Organize Your Escape Routes in Case of Fire
Once you have described the dangers and causes of fire to your children, you should move on to how they should protect themselves in case of fire.
The first thing to discuss is your escape routes. You must establish escape plans and routes from every room in your home, including the kitchen and the living room.
You should consider alternative routes: think of escape plans from the window if the height is not a problem. Ideally, and depending on the house’s layout, you should establish two ways out of each room, in case one escape route is blocked or too dangerous.
Walk through your home with your children and plan your escape. To make it less of a lesson and more of an adventure, pretend it is some sort of game. Pretend, for example, that a volcano has erupted in the kitchen, and now they have to find their path outdoors before the lava gets them.
Get Outside Quickly and Safely
Tell your children that the foremost thing they must remember is to get out as fast as possible. They shouldn’t carry anything with them: explain to them that firefighters will take care of their belongings and their precious teddy will be just fine.
No matter how much we love our pets, tell your children that losing time looking for their cat or dog can cost them their lives. Gently explain to them that the firefighters will save their pets because they know how to enter a fire and look for pets.
Turn this into a game by asking them where they think their pet escaped from. Make it more fun by using imaginative routes like A/C ducts or vents.
Feel Your Way out of Your Home
Our eyes sting in the presence of smoke. Teach your children how they can feel their way out of the house by touching things and furniture and keeping their eyes closed.
Prepare a game and have them memorize the setting of the furniture and other items so that they have a clear image in their mind of what the interior of your home feels like.
You can easily turn this into a fun game by turning it into a blindfold obstacle course.
Set a Meeting Point Outside
Whether it’s the garden gate or the sidewalk, define the meeting point where the whole family gathers in case of emergency. Tell your children that once they get out of the house, they should reach the meeting point and wait there for the whole family to gather.
Teach Your Children Not to Hide
In case your children have not managed to find their escape route, teach them not to hide under the bed or in the closet. This will make it harder for firefighters to locate them. Instead, tell them to stand in front of the window or in some obvious place where they will be highly visible and easily reachable.
As a game, ask them to find the most visible part of their room and pretend you can’t see them until they reach it.
Most fire victims die due to smoke inhalation. Teach your children that they should crawl out in case of fire. This will save them from smoke suffocation and greatly improve their ability to get safely outside.
Present it as a game and run fire drills where you ask them to crawl through the kitchen or the living room to teach them how important this is.
Stop, Drop, Roll
Even if their clothes catch fire, your children can be safe if you teach them to “stop, drop, and roll.”
If a child becomes aware that her clothes are on fire, show her how to stop, drop on the floor, protect her face with her hands, and roll over and over again, pretty much like a dog, to stop the oxygen supply to the fire. Since this is what a dog might do, you can present this in a light, playful manner, instructing them to “play the dog.”
Doors, Handles, and Smoke
Show your children how to become perceptive of fire risks.
If smoke is coming from under the door, they shouldn’t open it: it means the corridor is filled with smoke. Instead, they should choose the alternative escape route you have organized.
Remind them to check the door handle: if it’s too hot, they shouldn’t open it, opting instead for an alternative plan.
This can be made more fun as a version of a hot and coldgame. The family will yell “hot” as the child gets near a hot object like a door handle and “cold” as they move away from it until the child identifies it.
Prepare Your Children for Safety from Fire
Teaching your children what to do in case of fire is one of the best ways of keeping them safe. Spend a few afternoons explaining to them about fire and how they can keep safe. If you can do this through some fun games, even better!
Most importantly, teach them that all that matters in case of fire is that everyone is safe and well. Houses can be rebuilt, particularly with the help of a professional restoration company like Valley Restoration and Construction.