Top 8 Reasons Why Homes Catch Fire and How to Prevent Them

Fires are the most common claim for homeowners and they can start in a variety of ways.

The causes of these fires range from food left unattended on the stove to candles left burning. A majority of these fires are preventable with some forethought and care to minimize the risks.

Here are the eight most common causes of house fires as identified by the National Fire Protection Association.

  1. Candles

The NFPA says more than half of all candle fires start because of candles that were left too close to flammable items. They should always be kept at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.


  • Never leave a candle burning near flammable items.
  • Never leave a candle burning in an unoccupied room.
  • Candles should fit securely into holders so they won’t tip over.
  • Blow out any candles before leaving a room or going to sleep.


  1. Smoking

There are some 17,600 smoking-related fires a year, resulting in 490 deaths and more than $516 million in property damage.


  • If you smoke, consider doing so outside.
  • Use wide, sturdy ashtrays to catch butts and ashes.
  • Look for cigarette butts under furniture and between seat cushions to make sure no lit butts have fallen where they can’t be seen.
  • Don’t smoke in bed or on your sofa.


  1. Electrical and lighting

Electrical fires can be caused by an equipment malfunction, from an overloaded circuit or extension cord, or from an overheated light bulb, space heater, dryer or other appliance.


  • Don’t overload outlets or electrical cords.
  • Don’t leave Christmas lights or halogen lights on overnight or when not at home.
  • Have an electrician perform an annual checkup of your wiring.


  1. Dryers and washing machines

The most frequent causes of fires in dryers are lint/dust (29%) and clothing (28%). In washers, they are wire or cable insulation (26%), the appliance housing (21%) or the drive belt (15%).

  • Remember:
  • Clean the lint screen often and don’t run the dryer without it.
  • For gas and propane dryers, make sure there aren’t any leaks in the lines.
  • Vent the dryer to the outside of the house and ensure nothing blocks the vent pipe.
  • Keep the area around the dryer free of combustible materials.


  1. Lightning

NFPA says an average of 22,600 fires per year are caused by lightning strikes.

During lightning storms, remember:

  • Do not use computers, TVs or other electrical equipment.
  • Unplug major electronics to minimize damage.


  1. Children playing with fire

The NFPA says that children start an average of 7,100 home fires per year, causing about $172 million in property damage.


  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Teach children fire safety at an early age.
  • Make sure children have adequate supervision.


  1. Christmas trees

The NFPA says an average of 230 fires are attributed to Christmas trees each year and they are more likely to be serious because of the factors that can contribute to the fire: a dry tree, electrical lights and a fuel supply (gifts) under the tree.


  • Keep trees watered and dispose of them before they are dry.
  • Turn off tree lights before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Check lights for any shorts or other electrical issues before putting them on the tree.


  1. Cooking

Two-thirds of cooking fires start because the food or other materials catch fire. Fires are more likely to start on a range (57%) as compared to in the oven (16%), mainly due to frying. Most injuries occur when the cook tries to put out the fire.


  • Be alert when cooking and don’t leave food unattended.
  • Don’t throw water on a grease fire; put a lid on the pan to smother the fire.
  • If an oven fire flares up, turn off the oven and leave the door shut until the fire goes out on its own.
  • Keep clothing, pot holders, paper towels and other flammable items away from the stove.
  • Have working smoke detectors in the house. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case.

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