Accidents still happen no matter how safe we try to make our homes. Among falls, poisoning, and electrocution, fires are also major causes of accidental injuries at home. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 26% of reported fires in 2015-2019 started in homes, causing 75% of civilian fire deaths and 72% of all reported injuries. Accidental fires are unpredictable; once ignited, they can uncontrollably spread within seconds and have devastating consequences. Here are five common causes of household fires and the ways to prevent them.
In the United States, cooking is the leading cause of household fires. Often, these fires are caused when greases become overheated when cooking in an oven or stove. Grease is highly flammable at temperatures of about 310-360 Celsius (590 to 680 degrees Fahrenheit) and can spontaneously combust without directly coming in contact with flame.
You must stay alert when cooking and avoid the stove when tired or intoxicated. It’s best never to leave the kitchen unattended when frying, grilling, simmering, or working, especially with anything that produces grease, such as bacon.
When frying, if you see wisps of smoke or notice that the oil is giving off a smell, turn off your burner and carefully remove the pan, as smoke is a sign that your oil is too hot. It’s also crucial that you slowly heat the oil to the desired temperature for frying and gently add the food to the pan so that the oil doesn’t splatter.
Make sure you remain in the kitchen while baking or roasting food, and check it regularly. Keep flammable items like wooden utensils, mittens, or towels away from your stovetop to ensure your safety.
2. Heating Equipment
Heating appliances are the second leading cause of household fires. Space or baseboard heaters can cause fires if combustibles or fabrics are left too close to them. Gas heaters or heaters that require fuel, like kerosene, are also dangerous as they can catch on fire or blow up if you don’t properly use them. Electrical heaters can also cause household fires if their wiring is faulty or if a fabric overheats by coming into contact with them.
It’s essential to always follow the instructions on any heating appliance that you use. You also need to get your heating appliances regularly cleaned, inspected, and promptly repaired by professionals. Never leave heaters running if you’re leaving your home, and consider replacing space heaters with ones that automatically turn off if the appliance overheats or tips over. Keep all flammables away from your space heaters or fireplaces.
3. Electrical Equipment
According to the EFSI (Electrical Safety Foundation International), faulty electrical equipment is the third leading cause of household fires. Typically, electrical fires occur due to short circuits or loose/faulty connections that can cause arcing. They can also occur due to overheated wires caused by circuits overloaded with current. A bad circuit breaker can also cause a fire by not tripping during a short circuit or current overload, causing the wires to overheat.
You can reduce the risk of electrical fires by unplugging electrical items when they are not being used and using surge protectors to prevent wire damage in case of voltage spikes. It is also essential to ensure that the bulbs in your light fixtures have the recommended wattage. You should also get your wiring checked out by a professional electrician once a year, especially if you live in an older home or the circuit breaker frequently trips. Never perform electrical repairs unless you have prior experience and knowledge of the work.
According to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), candles cause 2% of reported home fires and 3% of home fire deaths.A burning candle should never be left unsupervised. The matches and lighter used to light it should also be kept away from children as they can be equally dangerous. You should keep all flammable items at least a foot away from a candle. Trim your candle’s wick to one-fourth of an inch from the top, and don’t allow it to burn to the bottom of the container.
Extinguish your candles before sleeping or leaving the house, and keep away from the reach of children. Make sure that the candles are placed on furniture that isn’t at risk of tipping over. For decorative effects, you can use battery-powered candles or fairy lights rather than burning candles.
Negligent smoking habits can also cause household fires. For instance, if someone throws a cigarette butt and it comes into contact with carpets, furniture, or any other flammable material, it will ignite a fire. Smoke outside the house whenever possible or over a sink to reduce the risk of causing a fire.
You can prevent most accidental fires by practicing proper fire safety. Be careful when cooking, smoking, and using candles, and keep a check on your wires and appliances. However, no matter how prepared someone is, accidents can still occur. You must have a fire escape plan to save yourself and your loved ones in case of a fire.