According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), 400,000 houses catch fire every year in the United States. Some of the most common causes of house fires reported by the NFPA are cooking, heating equipment, electrical hazards, smoking, and candles.
Cooking is at the top of the list, unattended cooking to be specific. Have you ever left the kitchen while something was in the cooking process on the stove? We probably all have. Something draws your attention away for a bit and then ten minutes later you suddenly remember you were cooking something when the kitchen fills with smoke!
Heating equipment is another common cause of house fires. These fires happen more during the winter months when houses need to be heated. Space heaters are the first things that come to my mind, and they are on the list as potential hazards. Obviously keep them away from flammable materials. Wood stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces can also cause fires when they are not cared for properly. Have a professional inspector look at your furnace each year as well as your fireplace, wood stove, and chimney to make sure they are ready
Electrical hazards such as inadequate wiring and overloaded outlets and extension cords can be a cause for concern as can light bulbs that are not the correct wattage. This is also a good time to mention Christmas trees. You might be wondering why. Although Christmas tree fires are not one of the most common causes of fires, when they do catch on fire they go up in flames quickly and can result in a devastating loss. More than 25% of Christmas tree fires are due to electrical problems.
Smoking is just plain bad. It’s bad for you, and it is listed as one of the common causes of house fires. Did you know that 25% of fire deaths due to smoking do not involve the smoker whose cigarette started the fire? Just think if you had to live with that devastation for the rest of your life if it was your cigarette that started the fire. If you must smoke, the best place to do it is outside.
Candles unfortunately cause fires everyday in the United States. Who doesn’t love the smell of a warm cinnamon vanilla candle (besides my husband) to make your house all cozy and warm feeling? I use candle warmers instead of the flame, so I am guessing that is a little safer! Although candle warmers are electrical and could be a potential electrical hazard I suppose! Of course, always blow out candles before leaving your house or going to sleep, and keep them away from children.
The 400,000 fires that occur each year cause billions of dollars in property damage. Statistics for 2018 show an estimated 25.6 billion dollars in property losses due to fires. Almost half of that dollar amount is from property losses due to the major wildfires in California. We are not in California, so we do not need to worry about wildfires getting out of control, however, that leaves approximately 12.8 billion dollars of property losses due to fires that are not caused by wildfires. One way you can minimize your risk of ever having to suffer a major house fire is by installing smoke detectors on every level of your home and making sure that they work! They may not keep a fire from starting but will increase your chances of discovering it quickly.
Jane Freeman is licensed in Property and Casualty at Peck and Wood Insurance.