The National Fire Protection Association indicates house fires are the leading cause of all fire deaths in the United States. According to the NFPA, there were 403,000 residential fires in 2008, resulting in 2,780 deaths and 13,560 injuries.
The NFPA acknowledges cooking as the leading cause of house fires in the United States and heating related fires as the second most common cause.
Here are some safety tips to help prevent house fires:
According to the NFPA, cooking related fires account for approximately 40% of all house fires. Most cooking fires are started when an oven or stove is left unattended or when items are left too close to a heat source. To reduce the risk of a cooking related fire:
- Make sure to never leave your oven or stove unattended while it is on.
- Keep all items at least 3 feet from the heat source, including cookbooks.
- Be sure to keep a properly charged fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen.
- Consider an automatic appliance shut-off switch for elderly or disabled persons.
NF PA statistics show most heating related fires occur in December, January and February and the majority of these fires are caused by fixed and portable space heaters. Extreme caution should be taken whenever alternative heating units are used. Kerosene heaters, electric space heaters, wood burning stoves, pellet stoves and fireplaces all provide hazards which could increase the chance of a fire loss. To reduce the risk of a heating related fire, consider the following:
- Kerosene: Kerosene heaters are extremely dangerous and should not be used inside the home. If a kerosene heater is used in the garage or a separate structure, be sure to choose a model that has been UL* listed. Also, make sure the unit has an automatic starter, a fuel gauge and a safety grill. Use only crystal clear K1 kerosene and make sure to slightly open a window for ventilation.
- Electric space heater: Electric space heaters should not be used in wet places such as bathrooms and should always be used on the floor, rather than on top of furniture. Also, be sure the plug fits snugly into the electrical outlet and avoid using an extension cord.
- Wood-burning/Pellet stoves: Have a certified professional install the woodburning or pellet stove and have a certified chimney sweep annually inspect the vent pipe or chimney. Burn only seasoned hardwood and refrain from using the stove to burn cardboard boxes or trash.
- Fireplace: Hire a certified chimney sweep to annually inspect your chimney for cracks, blockages, leaks and creosote build up. Use a sturdy screen or door to keep embers inside the fireplace and use a metal container for ash removal.
Electrical related fires are also a leading cause of house fires. The most prevalent types of electrical fires involve the improper use of light bulbs and problems with the home electrical system.
- Light bulbs: Never use a light bulb that exceeds the maximum wattage listed on the manufacturer’s warning label. Also, do not place anything over a lamp, such as a towel, clothing or paper.
- Home electrical systems: Allow only qualified electricians to perform electrical work in your home and have any faulty, inadequate or outdated wiring replaced. Avoid using an extension cord to plug in an appliance.
The NFPA determined smoking to be the leading cause of fire fatalities in 2008, accounting for nearly 25% of all residential fire deaths. Most smoking fires start when a cigarette, cigar or pipe comes in contact with upholstered furniture, such as a couch or a chair, or when a person falls asleep while smoking in bed. As a precautionary measure, make sure to:
- Never smoke in bed
- Require anyone who smokes, to do so outside.
- Kitchen oven: Never use a kitchen oven to stay warm.
- Generator: When using a generator, be sure to ventilate properly. A generator should not be kept in a garage but should be kept outside, to prevent gases from seeping into the home.
- Candles: Never leave a lit candle unattended, especially if there are pets or small children in the home. Also, extinguish any decorative candle when it gets down to the last ½ inch, as the glass may crack and allow hot wax to leak out and potentially cause a fire.
By taking a few moments to share these fire safety tips with your friends and family, a life could be protected and the risk of suffering a devastating fire loss can be drastically reduced.
* UL – Underwriters Laboratories® is an independent product safety certification organization that has been testing products and writing standards for safety for more than a century. UL evaluates more than 19,000 types of products, components, materials and systems annually with 20 billion UL Marks appearing on 72,000 manufacturers’ products each year. To learn more about Underwriters Laboratories® and UL listed products, visit the UL website at www.ul.com.