Common Causes of House Fires

In 2015 there were 365,500 house fires in the United States resulting in 2,650 civilian deaths, 11,075 injuries, and $7.0 billion dollars in direct property damage. (via As homeowners, we often don’t realize potential fire hazards in our home. In order to reduce your chances of a house fire, it’s best to education yourself on how to prevent one entirely. We’ve put together a list of sources that often cause fires along with a few safety tips to prevent them.

1. Candles

Candles are one of the most common causes for house fires. The risk of a candle being the source of your fire significantly increases during the holiday season. Most often, a candle is set too close to flammable materials or is forgotten about and left burning in an empty home.

To reduce the likeliness of a candle fire, be sure to follow these safety tips:

  • Never leave a candle unattended
  • Keep candles at least 12” away from flammable items
  • Secure candles so they do not tip over
  • Blow out candles before going to sleep

2. Smoking

Unfortunately, smoking is still a common cause of many house fires. The source of a fire can easily start from the bud of a cigarette not being completed put out or hot ashes touching a dry material.

To reduce the likeness of smoking causing a fire, follow these safety tips:

  • If you smoke, smoke outside
  • Do not smoke in bed or near medical oxygen
  • Use a large ash tray to discard butts and ashes
  • Before throwing away a cigarette, properly smother it to ensure it is no longer lit

3. Electrical

The cause of an electrical fire can be a variety of things such as a faulty wire, equipment malfunction, overheating, or overloading a circuit or extension cord. Never attempt to wire your home yourself; always have a professional perform any wiring needs your home may need.

To reduce the chances of an electrical fire, follow these safety tips:

  • Don’t overload outlets, power supplies, or extension cords
  • Use the correct type of cord – know what types of cords should be used indoors vs outdoors
  • Have a professional electrician check your home annually for any potential fire hazards

4. Dryers

Clothes dryers cause fires more often than one may think. The combination of lint and dust with the heat of a dryer can easily cause a spark and develop into a large fire.

To reduce the likeliness of a dryer starting a fire in your home, follow these safety tips:

  • Clean the lint screen regularly
  • Always use the lint screen when running the dryer
  • Vent the dryer outside the house
  • Double check that nothing is blocking the vent or vent pipe

5. Children Playing with Fire

According to the NFPA, children start an average of 7,100 home fires per year. Often younger children will play with matches or lighters resulting as the source of an indoor fire,while many outdoor fires are started by older children.

To reduce the chances of a child staring a fire, follow these safety tips:

  • Teach children fire safety at an early age
  • Place lighters and matches out of the reach of children
  • Provide proper supervision to children at all times

 6. Holiday Lights

During the holiday season, many families decorate a tree or their home with lights to celebrate the season. Holiday lights can easily catch fire due to electrical failures or overheating.

To reduce the possibilities of a holiday lights fire, follow these safety tips:

  • Turn holiday lights off when you go to bed or leave the home
  • Check your lights before putting them up for any shorts or electrical issues
  • Keep your holiday tree well watered so it doesn’t become too dry, making it extra flammable

7. Cooking

About 40% of all house fires are a result of a cooking fire (via NFPA). Cooking fires often occur due to a pot or pan being left unattended or because food and other materials have caught fire.

To reduce the changes of a cooking fire, follow these safety tips:

  • Be alert and do not leave cooking food unattended
  • Do not use water during a grease fire - smother the flame with flour or salt
  • Have working smoke detectors near the kitchen and a working fire extinguisher
  • Keep clothing, pot holders, towels, and other flammable items away from the heat source


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