8 Most Common Fire Hazards

Fire hazards are all around us and in our homes.  To help protect ourselves and our possessions, it is important to know how house fires commonly start and how to prevent them from starting.  These are the top 8 most common fire hazards and what you can do to reduce the risk of a house fire.

8. Candles

According to the NFPA, an average of 29 candle fires occur per day.  More than half of all candle fires start because they were left too close to flammable items.   Keep candles at least 12 inches away from curtains and other flammable items and do not leave candles burning in an unoccupied room.  To prevent candles from tipping over make sure they fit securely in candle holders. Always, blow out burning candles before falling asleep.

7. Smoking

While the number of fires caused by smoking is trending downward, the NFPA found that there were still an average of 17,600 related fires per year.  The number of smoking-material related fires dropped by 73% from 2008 to 2011, due to the decline in the number of smokers.  If you are a smoker consider these safety tips;

Consider smoking outside.
Use wide sturdy ashtrays to catch butts and ashes.
Make sure lit butts have not fallen into any seat cushions or under furniture.
Don’t smoke in bed, when you’re tired, or around medical oxygen.

6. Electrical and Lighting

According to the NFPA, in 2011 approximately 47,700 home structure fires were caused by some sort of electrical fire.  Make sure you are using the right cord for the right purpose, use inside cords for indoor use, and outside heavy duty cords for outdoor use.  Make sure to not overload outlets or electrical cords and never leave Christmas lights or halogen lights of any sort on overnight or when not at home.  Also, consider having an electrician perform an annual check-up.

5. Dryers and washer machines

Clothes dryer fires happen more often than one might think, accounting for 16,800 home structure fires in 2010 and doing more than $236 million in property damage.  The most frequent causes of fires in dryers are lint/dust (29%) and clothing (28%).  In washers, they are wire or cable insulation (26%), the appliance housing (21%) or the drive belt (15%).  To help prevent these fires from occurring;

Clean lint screen frequently and never run the dryer without it.
If you have a gas or propane dryer, make sure there are no leaks in the line.
Make sure to clean vent pipe and area where screen is housed.
Keep combustible materials away from your dryer area.

4. Lightning

From 2007-2011, NFPA says there were an average of 22,600 fires per year caused by lightning strikes.  Unlike other types of house fires, fires caused by lightning occur mostly in summer months, and in the early evening. Lightning frequently strikes the highest point on a structure and poses the greatest risk outdoors.  Do not use corded phones, computers or other electrical equipment during storms.  Also, unplug major electronics to minimize damage.  Avoid plumbing such as sinks and baths during storms.

3. Children playing with fire

The NFPA says that children start an average of 7,100 home fires per year.  Children under the age of six are more likely to start fires inside, using matches or a lighter, while older children are more likely to start fires outside. Always make sure that matches, lighters, and other ignition sources are kept out of reach of children.  Also, make sure children have adequate supervision an teach fire safety at an early age.

2. Christmas trees

The NFPA says an average of 230 fires are attributed to Christmas trees each year and they are more likely to be serious because of the factors that can contribute to the fire: a dry tree, electrical lights, and a fuel supply (gifts) under the tree.  With many factors coming into play these tips can keep your tree safe;

Keep trees well watered to avoid them becoming dry, dispose of the tree after it dries out.
Always turn off tree lights before going to bed or leaving the house.
Check lights for electrical issues before putting them on the tree, this is the number one cause of Christmas tree fires.
Other very common sources of Christmas tree fires are being too close to a heat source, such as a fireplace, or being too close to candles.

1. Cooking

Cooking is the number one source of house fires, often when leaving pots or pans unattended for “just a minute”.  The NFPA says that 40% of all house fires, or an average of 156,600 per year, start this way, causing $853 million in property damage.

Be alert and don’t leave food unattended.
Never throw water onto a grease fire, instead smother it with a lid to a pan.
If an oven fire occurs, turn off the oven and keep the door closed until the fire extinguishes.
Keep clothing, pot holders, paper towels, and other flammable items away from fires.
Make sure your smoke detectors are always in working order and keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen for emergencies.


Many house fires can often be prevented and knowing the common causes of them is the first step to protecting your home.  Evaluate in and around your home to see if it possesses any of these risks and fix the problem before disaster strikes.


Information from Patricia L. Harman at PropertyCasualty360