According to statistics from the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the frequency of house fires increases drastically as temperatures drop. December, January, and February are the three worst months for house fires in the U.S. We’ve prepared this list of the most common residential fire causes to raise awareness of these dangers among our customers and readership.
Common House Fire Causes
- Cooking: According to the USFA and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, accounting for approximately 50% of all residential structure fires.
- Heating Equipment: Approximately 12.5% of residential house fires originate from heating the house. To help avoid this danger, hire an HVAC technician to perform regular inspection of all heating equipment.
- Electrical Malfunction: If you live in an older home (and there are plenty of those in Northern Virginia), consider hiring a licensed electrician to inspect the wires in your home and update anything that might cause a fire. Electrical malfunctions cause 6.3% of all home fires.
- Unintentional, Carelessness: An accident out in the garage or a child getting hold of matches are a few examples of careless residential fires that get started unintentionally, accounting for about 5.8% of all residential fires.
- Open Flame: Candles and other open flames cause about 4.4% of all residential fires. According to the NFPA, “the top four days for home candle fires are New Year’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve.”
- Appliances: Incidents of appliances catching fire account for approximately 4.2% of all house fires. Clothing dryers are one of the more common appliances to catch fire, but any appliance with electricity is at risk. Even dishwashers have been known to catch fire.
- Intentional Fires: Frighteningly, 4.2% of fires get set intentionally.
- Smoking: While smoking only accounts for 2% of all residential structure fires, it’s the 2nd leading cause of fires that result in death.
- Natural: Lightning, being the most common type of natural fire, accounts for just 1.6% of residential structure fires.
- Equipment Malfunction: Any piece of equipment that uses electricity or gasoline can potentially catch fire, but these only account for about .09% of all home fires. Electric blankets have a reputation for catching fire, as do some battery powered devices and toys.
Extinguishing a House Fire
People use a variety of techniques (such as water, fire extinguishers, and smothering) to extinguish small fires before they get out of control. It is estimated by the USFA that “the vast majority of fire incidents go unreported because they are small, confined, and immediately extinguished.”
However, it’s important to consider the type of fire you’re dealing with before taking measures to extinguish it. For example, you don’t want to use water on an electrical fire or grease fire.
Install Residential Fire Detection & Suppression Equipment
At the very least, every home should be equipped with some form of smoke detectors, but we recommend monitored fire equipment. Residential fire suppression sprinklers are another way to defend against fire. According to the NFPA, residential fire sprinkler systems usually cost around $1.35 per sprinkled square foot.