Jill Kolodner | December 22, 2022 | Personal Injury
Every year, about 346,800 homes catch fire in the United States. These fires kill about 2,600 people annually and injure more than 11,000. They also cause over $7 billion in property damage.
The good news is that many house fires are preventable with simple fire safety measures. Below we’ll discuss some of the leading causes of house fires and learn how to protect your home and family from these disasters.
1. Heating Equipment
By far, the most common cause of house fires is heating equipment – specifically your kitchen range. About half of house fires start as cooking fires, with grease fires being particularly prevalent. Even if it doesn’t catch on fire directly, grease can combust when it gets heated over 600 F, and once lit, it can be very difficult to extinguish.
Never leave a stove on and unattended, and try to avoid cooking when you’re sleepy or intoxicated. Keep an eye on food that’s cooking, especially with grease, and keep the area around your stove clear of flammable materials. This can include paper towels, oven mitts, wooden utensils, and food packaging.
Space heaters, furnaces, and chimneys can also start house fires, especially if not properly maintained. Newer space heaters and furnaces have switches that automatically shut them off if they overheat or tip over.
If you’re still working with an older model, consider replacing it, and have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
2. Electrical Systems
Problems with electrical wiring spark about 50,000 house fires every year, resulting in more than 500 deaths and about 1,400 injuries.
Loose connections and improperly wired circuits can cause wires to arc, sending out a spark of electricity. This spark can ignite building materials, including wood framing, certain older types of insulation, and more.
If you’re looking at buying an old house, always be sure to get the electrical systems inspected and updated if needed. Hire a qualified electrician to do any work on your home electrical systems, and avoid using appliances or extension cords with frayed wires. It’s also a good idea to use surge protectors and to keep an eye out for signs of faulty wiring.
Candles are beautiful and make our homes smell fantastic, but they can also pose a serious fire safety threat. Experts estimate that, over the course of four years, candles caused an average of 7,600 fires. These accidents are especially common around the holidays, when people may light candles on the dinner table or during family gatherings.
Never leave a burning candle unattended, even on the dinner table, and always keep candles away from things like curtains and Christmas trees.
It’s also important to put away matches and lighters and to keep them out of the reach of children. Teach your children never to play with matches or lighters, and get at least one fire extinguisher to keep in your home.
We all know smoking is bad for your health, but smoking indoors can be even more deadly.
Falling ash or cigarette butts can ignite carpets, bedding, clothing, or other flammable materials. The National Fire Protection Administration estimates that house fires started by cigarettes kill almost 600 people a year and injure another 1,100.
Of course, your doctor might recommend quitting smoking as the best way to prevent this type of house fire. But if you do smoke, always smoke outside, and make sure to put cigarettes all the way out. Don’t smoke when you’re sleepy or after you’ve taken medicine that makes you drowsy, and never smoke around medical oxygen or in bed.
5. Christmas Trees
While live Christmas trees can be a wonderful source of holiday joy, the more the season wears on, the more dangers they can pose. Live trees can dry out, especially if they don’t get watered enough or if they form a sap plug at the base of the trunk. One tiny spark or hot spot can send the tree up in flames, engulfing an entire room in seconds.
When picking out your live tree, make sure it doesn’t have a ton of dry needles, and keep it well-watered throughout the season. Keep the tree away from heat sources, including fireplaces, space heaters, heating vents, and radiators. And make sure to dispose of your live tree soon after Christmas is over and before it gets too dry.
Dealing with the Aftermath
House fires can be devastating, but you can prevent many of them with proper safety measures. Never leave any sort of fire, including stoves and candles, unattended, and make sure your electrical systems are up to scratch. Never smoke indoors, and if you get a live tree, don’t let it get too dried out during the holiday season.
If you’ve been injured in a house fire, you could be entitled to compensation. A Baltimore burn injury lawyer can help you recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.