Most house fires occur during the winter months, especially around the holidays with Christmas lights, the use of candles, and lots of cooking. All fires are preventable if you stay vigilant and practice safety. The problem is we let our guard down when we are busy and tired. Below, is a summary of the causes of the majority of home fires to help you keep them in mind and stay vigilant.
1. Cooking - The number one source of house fires is due to cooking. Forty percent of all house fires are caused by people leaving the stove unattended, for a quick minute elsewhere or while they make a quick run to the store. Grease gets overheated and catches fire. Most injuries occur when people try to put out the fire.
2. Electrical – Electrical fires can be caused by many different things, such as, incandescent light bulbs, space heaters, washers, dryers, and other similar equipment. The U.S. had averages over 40,000 structure fires caused by an electrical problem and caused over 400 deaths.
3. Dryer Vents – More than 15,000 fires occur annually from clothes dryers. The largest cause for dryer fires were lint and clothes. Dryers account for more than 90% of these fires.
4. Smoking – Although the number of fires caused by smoking is trending lower due to fewer smokers, we still average more than 15,000 fires annually and over 400 deaths.
5. Candles – Everyone loves the romantic glow of candlelight. There are an average of 10,600 fires started by candles every year resulting in over 900 injuries. About 1/3 of the fires start in bedrooms due to candles left too close to flammable items. Candles should be kept a minimum of 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
6. Children – Children playing with fire account for more than 7,000 per year on average. Children under the age of 6 start most fires indoors using matches or a lighter.
People don’t often think about the fire risks posed by the light in their clothes closet, but it’s one of the few places in the house where a source of high heat can get too close to flammable materials. Lighting must be installed safely, with adequate separation from clothes, boxes and other flammables stored in the closet. Additionally, the quality of the light, as well as bulb efficiency, will influence your lighting choices.
The rules for new home construction are updated frequently based on experience and accident prevention. The newest rules for closet lighting provide a good model for evaluating your home for safety improvements. Lights in closets and similar storage areas should have enclosed bulbs due to the heat bulbs can generate, especially incandescent lamps. Globes can protect the bulb and keep objects away from the high surface temperatures. This applies to fluorescent lighting as well. Partially enclosed bulbs and pull-chain lights should be replaced. Surface mounted light fixtures, ceilings and walls, should maintain a 12” clearance from any object; clothes, boxes, etc. Recessed lighting should be located where a minimum clearance of 6” is maintained at all times.
Chuck retired from an engineering management career to start a home inspection business