Unfortunately, each year there are thousands of home fires across the country, some of which claim lives of occupants, visitors or pets. Even though in general we’re more fire-aware than ever and have smoke detectors and other warning and hazard prevention systems in place, fires rage on.
If you want to keep yourself, your family, your pets and home safe – and avoid burning down your property or end up with the need for restoration after fire damage – it’s important to understand the major risks. Read on for some of the common causes of fires and steps you can take to stay safe.
One of the biggest issues in homes that leads to fires is faulty wiring. This is particularly found in older properties but can happen anywhere. Inappropriate wiring can be located directly at power points, on leads of appliances or on internal house wiring. Electrical cords and the like can become loose, frayed and cracked over time as they deteriorate or simply because they have a fault. When this happens, sparks fly out, hit flammable surfaces and start a fire.
To stay safe, be on the lookout for warning signs. For instance, if you see wires starting to come out of leads or if plugs seems loose, it’s time to replace them. Also, notice if lights dim when you use another appliance or if circuit breakers or fuses blow often. You might be at risk, too, if you have to use extension cords or “octopus” outlets a lot and/or disconnect one appliance to plug in another. Beware overloading circuits or overusing extension cords. Don’t perform electrical work yourself if you’re not experienced and qualified, and don’t run any electrical wires under heavy furniture or rugs etc.
Heating is another common cause of home fires. For example, wood-burning fires can get out of control; portable, electric heaters may come into contact with flammable items such as shoes, books, curtains or sheets and cause them to ignite; or central heating equipment may cause a blaze.
To prevent this from happening, take steps like having your furnace/chimney inspected, cleaned and serviced annually by a qualified technician, as well as any central heating systems you may have. Always keep plenty of room around space heaters: Usually at least three feet or more is required in all directions. Don’t be tempted to dry your shoes or clothing right next to your heater!
Each year we hear about numerous cases of home fires being started by candles. While it can feel intimate and romantic to place candles around the home, especially in winter months, these do pose a significant risk, particularly when left unattended. Candles have open flames, after all.
To stay safe, consider switching to battery-operated candles or in a blackout choose a flashlight instead. If you do use candles, make sure there’s always an adult in the room paying attention when they’re burning. Extinguish all candles when you leave a room, and don’t go to sleep with them still burning or let children light them in their rooms or other areas if you’re not there to supervise. Furthermore, keep candles in sturdy holders and on level surfaces, so they won’t fall over and set things alight. Keep them away from pets, too, and far from various types of combustible materials.
Smokers who forget to extinguish their cigarettes, or who fall asleep or become drowsy when they have a lit cigarette can also cause home fires. Sometimes issues arise because people think they have put a cigarette or cigar out, but the smoldering butts (which can stay smoldering for longer than many people realize) are still hot and have embers which can cause furniture or other flammable surfaces and items to catch alight.
Avoid this by never smoking when you’re getting tired or have taken medications, been drinking etc.; use large and deep ashtrays; and keep these receptacles well away from anything that could burn. Check for fallen embers often. It’s wise to smoke outside, rather than inside the house, for maximum safety.
Kids Playing with Fire
Children are inquisitive and can often be enthralled by flames and curious about matches. Unfortunately, this can leads to devastating fires. You therefore need to teach your children that fire isn’t a toy. Don’t leave youngsters unattended with fireplaces, stoves, candles or any other flame-producing objects, and consider actually locking away lighters and matches so they won’t play with fire and unintentionally cause a disaster while you’re in another room or out of the house.