Protect your home from the most common fire hazards
- View the 8 most common fire hazards, from cooking and wood stoves to hot appliances to faulty wiring, smoking, candles and more.
- Here are 4 more less common fire starters: recalled products, 9-volt batteries, sawdust and glass décor.
- The number of home fires increases in the winter, with over 5,000 per month, says the Red Cross.
Nobody intends for a fire to break out in their home. They could occur due to faulty appliances or wiring, or even a home renovation project gone wrong. You must know what common causes are to eradicate fire hazards in your home, for optimal protection. Let’s do a walking tour of the home and note the significant players.
Related: How to prevent home electrical fires
Eight common fire starters
Fires cost residents billions of dollars each year. In 2020, a home fire occurred every 89 seconds (latest figures available). Even though awareness is increasing, the number of fire fatalities has not improved over several decades. You can do your part in reducing these dangers by being aware of the major causes of fire hazards in your home.
1. Cooking, fire pits and wood stoves
Whether inside or outside, cooking is the most apparent fire starter. To stay safe, maintain a tidy kitchen and keep all flammable items away from open flames.
Vintage appliances also add additional concerns due to their outdated technology. Because they were made in accordance with antiquated safety codes, they should be avoided unless a professional checks the unit’s safety.
To further ensure safety in the kitchen, update all smoke detectors, use proper cooking utensils depending on the material and never leave what you’re cooking unattended. For outdoor cooking appliances, maintain grill tops and fire pits by clearing away any rust, corrosion and natural materials like leaves.
2. Hot appliances, chimneys and fireplaces
Even though the kitchen has a lot of heat-generating appliances, you’ll find others all over the house. Here are the ones typically located outside the kitchen that generate a lot of heat:
- Dryer: Lint buildup in dryers is one of the most unexpected fire hazards in your home. Cleaning the traps regularly and changing filters could save more than just your clothes.
- Furnace: It may sound inconvenient, but we strongly suggest you call a professional before cold weather starts each year to check your furnace’s performance.
- Chimneys and fireplaces: On top of scheduling chimney cleanings, there are other ways to keep fireplaces safer. Add a spark screen; use proper methods to stoke the flames so sparks don’t fly unnecessarily.
- Space heaters. You can ensure safe usage by keeping them at a distance from thin or flammable materials like fabric. Unplug space heaters when not in use or when leaving the house. It may feel nice to walk into an already-warm home, but you’ll thank yourself for taking these precautions.
3. Appliance cords and faulty electrical wiring
Walk around your home and check every cord to see if they are fraying or exposed. If you have pets, they may have eaten through wires without your awareness. Once they’re all checked, install a few surge protectors. They are an inexpensive aid for preventing wire-related fires.
Most importantly, keep clutter to a minimum around wires. Energy audits and electricians can help you gain more information about the age of your electrical systems and ensure they comply with safety codes.
If you smoke, it’s best to do it outside the home with proper receptacles nearby to dispose of dangerous materials. Smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths in America, so ensure cigarette butts are extinguished in ashtrays or even sprinkle water on them for added security.
5. Lamps, lighting and candles
Lamps and lighting can also be a source of fire hazards in your home. To use them safely, use only bulbs with the correct wattage so they don’t short out. You can also use LEDs that produce less heat. Lampshades made of a study, heat-resistant material should cover the bulbs and give them plenty of space to emit warmth.
Candles, as with open flames in the kitchen, should ideally never be out of eyesight or within reach of children or animals. All light fixtures, including candles, should be placed in the middle of a surface such as a table to avoid tipping.
6. Ungrounded or loose outlets
Two-prong ungrounded outlets have been prohibited since 1962 in new builds for good reason. They are more prone to electric shock and can create sparks that cause fires. Replace them as necessary. Also, be aware of plugs that don’t stay in outlets, due to loosening blades in the outlet structure. These generate heat, increasing the potential for a fire.
7. Flammable liquids
Gasoline and propane are some of the obvious offenders, especially if you keep some in storage. Other well-known combustible liquids in your home include oils and bleach. Less frequently acknowledged liquids such as non-dairy coffee creamer, nail polish remover or cleaning products pose equal dangers.
8. Unattended pets and children
It’s essential to child-proof and pet-proof the home by locking away items like matches and lighters. Pay extra attention if you have curious children, high-jumping cats or tall dogs that could surprise you with their skills in finding potential threats.
Four overlooked fire starters
1. Recalled products
Unless you’re keeping close tabs on the news, it’s not always obvious when a product is recalled. Products like microwaves and computer parts could be recalled at any time. To protect yourself, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for a complete list of recalled products and their reasons.
2. 9-Volt Batteries
Some appliances, including smoke detectors, have these batteries. When the terminals touch something metal, they are likely to spark. Even if you’re recycling your batteries responsibly, it’s best to place duct tape around the terminals to prevent aggravation. For added security, rummage through junk drawers and other storage in your home to be sure they aren’t hiding.
If you’ve recently completed a renovation project, you may have excess sawdust around. It looks just as unassuming as regular dust but ignites much faster. A thin layer on top of a wood surface or loose particles in the air are equally susceptible.
4. Glass decor
The stained glass or terrariums decorating your home, inside or outside, could hold and refract the sun’s rays better than most materials. The beams could set something aflame if the hot refraction hits a vulnerable material, so be cautious as to what you put in the sun rays’ path.
Insurance and other safety precautions to eliminate fire hazards in your home
Many of these fire starters work in conjunction with environmental factors. The American Red Cross sees a rise in home fires in wintertime, tending to over 5,000 homes a month because of increased risks.
Set reminders to check your smoke detectors and install more if necessary. Don’t forget carbon monoxide detectors, either – they work synergistically with a fire safety strategy to keep every room in your home safe.
Homeowners or renters insurance is strongly recommended as an extra safety net. Most home insurance policies cover the cost of damage related to fire and smoke, but not usually in the case of arson or instances where insurers suspect it was self-started.
Lastly, create and review a fire escape plan. This is an intentional time to review the exit opportunities of every room and determine outside meeting places for everyone in the household. No plan is practical unless practiced, so it’s vital to try drills to test efficacy.
Reduce home fires with awareness
Implementing a few safety protocols will prevent nearly every possible fire hazard in your home. An awareness of susceptible areas is a great tool to have in your toolbelt so that maintenance in these areas comes more naturally. Eradicating fire hazards in the home may take a little time, but the recovery period after a fire costs much more in time – and money.
Agents, take a look at our Homeowners Program to add to your portfolio of insurance solutions.