House Fires – Common Causes and Prevention

Causes of House Fire

An accidental house fire can erupt unpredictably, can spread within seconds, and can destroy a property within minutes. Of most of the fires reported every year in the U.S., 31 percent happen at residential places. Here is an article explaining what are the causes of a house fire, how do you prevent a house fire, causes of an electrical fire, and how to stop an electrical fire and more. 

House fire is dangerous for everyone, and even small fires can lead to the loss of thousands of dollars. House fires take place due to a wide range of factors like open flames, negligence, cooking, and more. The best way to prevent house fire is to understand the causes that contribute to it. 

House fire can start in varied ways but usually fall into two classifications: fires as a result of chemical reactions and those caused due to heat igniting flammable materials. A home is a place that contains varied materials and objects that can catch fire easily under specific conditions. You may be aware of some of the causes of house fires, but others might be surprising for you. 

What are the Common Causes of House Fire? 

In order to prevent a house fire, it is essential to identify the causes of a house fire. Identifying the causes of house fire helps you in lowering the risks and lowering the chance of getting house fire, which in turn helps in keeping family as well as property safe. Below mentioned are some of the common causes of a house fire.

Fires Related to Cooking

Holiday fire safety - Unattended cooking on stove leads to… | Flickr

Cooking fires are the cause of 48 percent of the house fires. These fires are mostly caused due to overheated greases on an oven or on a stove.

Grease is a profoundly flammable substance when it is hot enough (when it is at a temperature of 600 degrees Fahrenheit). When grease reaches this temperature, it can catch fire spontaneously, even if it is not in direct contact with the fire. Once the grease catches fire, it is quite difficult to dampen the flames.

In order to avoid this type of fire, it is better not to leave the kitchen neglected or unattended while cooking grease producing foods, like bacon. Most of the house fire starts when homeowners leave food cooking on the stove unattended. By the time people discover fire, it becomes late. Hence, it is better to clean your cookware properly in order to prevent grease from developing over time. 

In many cases, an overheated pot or pan can take seconds to catch fire. While cooking, stay in the kitchen, especially if you are using high temperatures of oils. In addition to this, keep combustibles away from high temperatures. 

Electrical Fires

There is a wide range of causes of an electrical fire. Every year electrical fires are the reason for approximately 51,000 fires, accounting for around property damage of $1.3 billion, 500 deaths, and 1,400 injuries. 

Most of the time, short circuits are the major causes of electrical fires. Electrical fires occur as a result of short circuits leading to sparking that ignites from overloaded circuits or building materials, leading wires to overheat and eventually catch fire. 

Most of the time, electrical fires rise from hidden locations, and they develop into significant fires before individuals or residents are aware of them. Electrical issues are the reason for 10 percent of house fires, and these fires are highly dangerous and are responsible for 19 percent of deaths caused due to house fire.

causes of house fire


Candles are the reason for approximately 15,600 house fires every year in the U.S. Moreover, fires caused due to candles lead to 80 deaths and 770 injuries every year in the country. The lighters and matches used to light the candles are equally dangerous if they are left at the places that are in reach of the children. 

It is better to keep lighters and candles locked at places out of the reach of the children. In addition to this, never leave a burning candle in an unattended room. I understand that candles add a beautiful touch to the holiday celebrations and family dinners, but always remember to extinguish them before leaving the room. 

Heating Appliances

Baseboard heaters or home space heaters can lead to a house fire when combustibles like fabrics or others are left close to them. Different types of heating appliances are the second major cause of house fires in the U.S. 

Heating appliances are responsible for around 15 percent of all the house fires in the U.S. Every year, approximately 25,000 house fires causing around 300 deaths, are caused due to heating appliances.


Smoking is dangerous for your health in varied ways. It also includes the potential to ignite the fire from dropped cigarette buts at different places, especially on flammable materials like furniture or carpets.

Fires caused due to smoking materials and cigarettes are responsible for approximately 1,000 deaths in the U.S. In addition to this it causes 3,000 injuries every year. Although smoking materials are responsible for only 5 percent of all the house fires, they cause deadly fires that are accountable for around 23 percent of the fire deaths. All it takes is a little ash to ignite a carpet, mattress, or a piece of clothing.

Fires Caused by Chemicals

Although fires caused due to chemicals are common in industries, they are also one of the major causes of house fires. Chemical fires in houses are caused when volatile vapors from petroleum liquids attain a particular temperature. These types of fire also occur when fumes come in contact with open flame. 

Chemical fires of different types are responsible for 14,000 fires every year, and a certain number of these are house fires. These types of fires are highly deadly, as they are unexpected. 

Another reason for chemical fires when rags containing oil catch heat spontaneously. Spread them in an outdoor location and allow the oil to evaporate. You can wash them for reuse once they are dry. 

Christmas Trees and Decorations

In many families, Christmas trees are a part of the tradition, but they contain certain risks. It takes time for a really evergreen tree to dry out, but by the end of the holiday season, they can pose a serious danger to catch fire. 

A spark or hot light can set a tree aflame, and this type of fire spreads at a faster pace. Fires caused due to Christmas trees or decorations are less as compared to other types of fire, but they cause around 170 cases of house fire every year in the U.S. 

causes of house fire

How to Prevent a House Fire? 

When we think of house fires, the first question that comes to our mind is what are the causes of a house fire or what are the causes of an electrical fire. The other question that comes to our mind is how do you prevent a house fire or how to stop an electrical fire. Here is the solution to these questions.

Here are ten ways to prevent a house fire.

Inspect your Heating Sources on a Regular Basis

If your heating sources are not working properly, then it could lead to the house fire. Hence, it is better to check all the heating sources properly every year. Always place the heating sources away from the flammables.

Check Your Smoke Alarms Regularly

Test and check your smoke alarms on a regular basis. There is a little button on the fire alarms, and you can press it to check if the alarm is in the working condition or not. 

Don’t Leave your Kitchen Unattended 

If you have put something on the stove, then it is better not to leave the kitchen unattended. It takes only a few seconds for the fire to break out, so it is better not to leave anything on the stove. 

Keep your Oven and Stove Clean

When the food particles on the stove get too hot, they often catch fire. Hence it is better to keep the stove clean. In addition to this, stay in the kitchen if you are cooking something on the stove

Store all the Flammable Products Appropriately

Always keep flammable products like common cosmetic items, matchboxes, lighters, and household cleaners at a safe place and out of the reach of the children. Flammable products can catch fire if they are exposed to large heat sources.

Maintain all the Chords in a Proper Way

Make sure all the chords in your house are in proper condition. They are not chewed or frayed. If you find any damaged wired, then it is better to replace them.

How to Prevent Electrical Fires?

It is one of the most obvious questions that come to mind when we think about preventing house fire. Below mentioned are some of the tips to prevent electrical fires at home.

  • Use extension cords temporarily
  • Update the electrical system of your home from time to time
  • When the heat-producing appliances are not in use, keep them unplugged
  • Don’t plug the devices that have damaged cords
  • Always follow the directions that come with appliances