How To Prevent House Fires and The Top 5 Causes of House Fires

March 03, 2021 7 min read

how to prevent house fires

The other day, I was reminded of when I was in high school, my house caught fire, and my family lost everything.

What the fire did not take the hoses ruined.

In our case, it was the old cliche of a kid playing with matches. I guess I had a bit of a misconception that most fires start with kids playing with matches, but that is actually rarely the case.

With this memory fresh in my mind, I’d like to break down the top 5 causes of fires and how to prevent house fires in general.

What Does a Fire Need to Survive?

what does a house fire need

Before I break down the top 5 causes of fires that, we should probably figure out what fires need to survive.

Once we have that, we will know how to extinguish them.

So the question is, what does a fire need to live?

Fuel

Fuel is what the fire needs to consume to remain. This is fat from cooking oils, rendering of meats or butter/lard in many kitchen fires.

When we think of candle fires in the home, these are typically flammable items that were too close to the flame.

By keeping intended fires, fireplaces, stove burners, and candles away from other fuels, we can eliminate fires’ ability to grow.

The most common way we put out fires is by making the fuel less flammable.

We usually do this with water, soaking the fuel to take much more heat to ignite the fuel.

But not all fuel can be saturated.

For instance, the fat from a cooking fire is already a liquid, and adding water to any fat will result in splattering, resulting in injuries.

It's one of those types of fires where we can’t mess with the fuel, so we need to find another method.

Heat

Fuel and oxygen cannot create a fire.

Heat must be added for a fire to ignite. Therefore removing heat can also stop a fire.

For instance, turning off the stovetop when you see fire will reduce the heat and decrease the fire.

Cigarettes and space heaters are two familiar sources of heat that start a fire.

Oxygen

Along with fuel, fire needs oxygen to stay alive.

So when you get that grease fire and put a lid on the pot, that is the right way to put out that kind of fire; remove the source of oxygen.

The Most Common Types of Home Fires

Okay, so now for that list of the most common types of home fires and how to both prove our home from them and how to combat them when they occur.

1. Cooking

cooking can cause house fires

The number one place for a fire to start in a home is the kitchen.

Of those fires that form in the kitchen, the best way to mitigate house fires above any other is to stay in your kitchen when cooking.

Almost all of these fires occur on stoves, so the number two thing you can do is keep flammable items away from the stove.

If the stovetop fire gets out of control and you decide to fight it, assume a moist fuel involved like oil, grease, or fat.

Don’t put water on these fires.

Just remove one of the things that keep it going, for instance, oxygen but smothering it with a pot lid.

Turning off the heat source will make it rely on only the heat it generates, and without oxygen, it won’t be making more of that heat.

How To Prevent House Fires While Cooking:

  1. Stay in the kitchen while cooking
  2. Keep flammable items away from the stove
  3. Smother don't douse the stove fire

2. Heaters

heaters cause house fires

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, local fire departments responded to an estimated 52,050 fires involving heating equipment each year, accounting for 15% of all reported home fires during this time.

These fires resulted in annual losses of 490 civilian deaths, 1,400 civilian injuries, and $1 billion in direct property damage.

You can follow a couple of easy tips to keep safe with these, especially in December, January, and February when over half of these fires occur, leaving people out in the cold.

How to Prevent House Fires From Your Heater:

  1. Make sure wood-burning stoves are properly installed
  2. Turn off portable heaters when you leave home or before you go to sleep
  3. Have chimneys inspected annually.
  4. Use only the fuel specifically for your heater.
  5. Gasoline does not belong in a kerosene heater.
  6. Make sure that all Fireplaces have some sort of screen to retain and hot embers
  7. Burn dry and seasoned wood which will reduce the cracking and hot embers
  8. Don’t burn coal in a fireplace not rated for that level of heat

3. Electrical

electricity causes fires

We live every day with electricity - Thomas Edison would be proud.

But, we also live surrounded by possible house fire risks that you may not even know of.

Overloaded circuits account for most of the fires related to electricity.

On top of that, home electrical fires account for an estimated 51,000 fires each year, nearly 500 deaths, more than 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage.

There are a few tips to prevent any house fires from the electricity that I have listed below.

How To Prevent House Fires from Electrical Causes:

  1. If you have permanent utilities that occupy the same electrical power strip, hire a licensed electrician to install additional receptacles instead.
  2. Test the power strips to make sure that they trip
  3. Be sure to keep the amount of power being pulled through an extension cord in line with what the cord is rated for.
  4. Make sure all faceplates are covering wall receptacles
  5. Don’t use a light bulb that exceeds the wattage for the lamp or lamp cord
  6. Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) in all areas where cords are exposed to the weather or where items may come in contact with water (bathrooms and kitchens above counter height). These detect overloads on a circuit and will cut power to it.
  7. Replace fuses with breakers
  8. For any sleeping area, replace standard breakers with Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI), which can detect power leaks like when power from a faulty cord is arcing, leading to a fire.

4. Smoking

smoking causes house fires

It's estimated that cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, start an estimated 17,200 home structure fires annually.

These fires caused an average of 570 deaths, 1,140 injuries and $426 million in direct property damage.

Smoking materials cause 5% of reported home fires, 21% of home fire deaths, 10% of home fire injuries, and 6% of the direct property damage.

How To Prevent House Fires from Smoking:

  1. Consider smoking outside, you decrease your chance of a house fire when you take the fire out of the house.
  2. Put out your cigarette completely.
  3. Use a bucket of water to ensure your butt does not become the start of another fire.
  4. Don’t fling your cigarette butts outside.
  • First, it's just disgusting, second it’s littering, and third if mulch, grass or other fuel sources have recently ignited causing a few of the multi-state forest fires in the past years.

5. Candles

candles cause house fires

More than one-third of home candle fires started in the bedroom, and two of every five candle fires start when things that can burn are left near the candle.

While I love a good candle (believe it or not), I am always very cautious around them and I have a few tips to keep you safe.

How to Prevent House Fires From Candles:

  1. Don’t fall asleep with candles burning
  2. Consider flameless candles which can look, sound and smell like regular candles
  3. Use flashlights in emergencies over candles
  4. Unclutter surfaces from candles

The Biggest Way To Prevent House Fires

smoke detecters prevent house fires

Even if you take all of the precautions above on how to prevent house fires, life happens.

We want to be as independent and self-serving as possible, but sometimes disaster is unavoidable.

The best way to prevent anything happening to your family in a house fire is smoke detectors. Smoke detectors save lives.

You should change the batteries in your smoke detectors each time you move your clocks forward or back.

Batteries aren't cheap, but if you lost a loved one in a fire that could have been prevented you will find yourself saying I would pay anything to get them back - to spend a few dollars a year and keep everyone safe.

I always make sure that I have an emergency kit in my truck ready to go in the event of a fire or other emergency.

Along with this kit, I also throw in a long term food bucket from Valley Food Storage.

This allows me to know that I can feed my family if needed while we aren’t at home.

I also have a few buckets in my pantry but in the event of a fire - the first things I’m making sure survive are my family and the dog.

The reason I choose Valley is for the simple fact that our food has zero bullshit in it. No fillers, no GMO’s and no artificial ingredients.

I used it before I started writing for VSF here and I still pay the full amount for my long term food supply.

Click here to check out Valley Food Storage’s Long Term Food Bucket now!

Conclusion - How To Prevent House Fires

House fires can be a scary thing - but now you’re prepared for any of them.

I promise if you follow the tips I have laid out above, you and your family will be as safe as possible.

While you know exactly how to prevent house fires, what do you do if you have one and you need to get out of the house quickly?

Well, I’ve answered this for you too.

Click here to check out our post on exactly how to build an emergency kit for you and your family!