Common causes of house fires – and how to prevent them

Each year, thousands of Canadians experience a fire in their home. Being prepared can make the difference between life and devastating loss. Here are 4 common causes of house fires, and the preventive steps you can take to protect your family and home.

Cooking equipment

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home-fire injuries.1

Prevention:

  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking, especially if using oil and/or high temperatures. If you must leave the room, turn off the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch on fire away from heat sources – i.e. oven mitts, dish towels, paper towels.
  • Keep your appliances clean. Food residue and grease build-up is flammable.
  • Keep a working fire extinguisher in your kitchen.

Heating equipment

Heating equipment fires are the second leading cause of fire deaths (after careless smoking).1 The top culprits? Space heaters and heating equipment that is improperly cleaned and maintained.

Prevention:

  • Keep portable heaters at least one metre away from anything combustible.
  • Have your furnace and chimney cleaned and inspected annually. Keep the damper open until the ashes are cool enough to touch.
  • Clean lint out of the dryer filter every time, and from the vent pipe once a year.
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm to alert you to deadly carbon monoxide gas.

Electrical equipment

Electrical fires are one of the most common threats homeowners face. Warning signs include fuses that blow or circuit breakers that trip frequently, or lights that dim when you use another appliance.

Prevention:

  • Ensure your electrical appliances don’t have loose or frayed cords/plugs.
  • Look for receptacles that don’t work, light switches that are hot to the touch, and lights that flicker.
  • Do not overload outlets with plugs.
  • Never use water to extinguish electrical fires, since there is a considerable risk of electrocution.

Candles

A lit candle in an unoccupied room is just asking for trouble. Candles are a major cause of home fires, especially during the winter and Christmas holidays, where they are often placed too close to blankets or holiday decoration.

Prevention:

  • Quite simply, blow it out. Never leave candles unattended.
  • Use deep, wide containers to hold them.
  • Keep them away from combustible materials and out of the reach of children or pets or spots where they can be bumped over.

Don’t forget the smoke alarm!

Many fatal fires start at night, when only a working smoke alarm can save your life. Install one alarm per level of your house, particularly near the kitchen and sleeping areas. Replace the batteries twice a year, and test your alarm monthly. Make sure everyone in your home recognizes the sound of the alarm and knows the nearest exits. And don’t forget to practice your home fire escape plan regularly.

Sources

1.Study confirms cooking, smoking are top causes of house fires, Canadian Firefighter

The 7 Most common causes of house fires, and how to prevent them, Welcome Mat

More on this topic

Government of Canada: Fire safety in your home

Fire Prevention Canada

Fire safety information: Canada Safety Council


Other topics of interest:

The information provided is meant to be illustrative only and does not constitute or replace the advice of experts. The Personal assumes no liability with regards to how such information is used.