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Surprising Cause of Most House Fires

by Guest Blogger
Open Fire

Fires resulted in $13 billion in losses in 2017, not including the $10 billion lost due to the Northern California wildfires. Although we’re well aware of how devastating fires can be, most of us don’t realize how easily they could happen to us.

According to an American Red Cross study, two in five adults think they’re more likely to win the lottery than lose their home in a fire. Unfortunately, they’re wrong. While there is a one in a million chance of winning the lottery, the odds of dying from fire or smoke are about one in 1,500.

The risks of a fire and magnitude of potential damages should prompt us to be more prepared and to familiarize ourselves with potential fire hazards. Being unaware and not having the right plans or tools in place can put your safety in jeopardy and may result in preventable injuries and damages.

We surveyed 3,000 people to get a pulse on America’s knowledge of fire safety. Take a look at our findings below to see what we found and why you should think twice about home fire safety.

Key Takeaways:

  • Only 12 percent of Americans know the leading cause of house fires (cooking)
  • Nearly a quarter of Americans don’t have a fire extinguisher in their home
  • 16 percent of Americans leave their kitchen unattended daily

The holidays are a time to be especially cautious since most of us are cooking. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that home cooking fires peaked during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year alone, State Farm paid over $118 million for almost 2,500 cooking and grease fire claims.

Despite this, Americans aren’t aware of the risks or taking the proper precautions.

88 Percent of Americans Don’t Know the Leading Cause of House Fires

Most Americans incorrectly thought electrical malfunctions were the leading cause of house fires. Although these are dangerous, electrical malfunctions account for only 10 percent of residential fires, according to the NFPA.

The NFPA reported that 49 percent of residential fires were a result of cooking. A November 2018 report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) found that fires between 2012 and 2016 alone caused 530 civilian deaths, 5,270 reported civilian fire injuries, and $1.1 billion in property damage each year.

If you’re unaware of the high risk of kitchen fires, you won’t know what steps to take to prevent or extinguish them. When it comes to fires, every second counts. A small flame can turn into a major fire in less than 30 seconds.

Preparedness is not only important when keeping you and your loved ones safe, it’s also crucial for preventing expensive damage to your home.

Fire Extinguishers are Missing from Nearly a Quarter of American Homes

Fire extinguishers are one main tool we can use to put out fires. However, our results found that:

  • Nearly one in four (23%) Americans still don’t have a fire extinguisher in their home
  • 15% of Americans aren’t sure if they have a fire extinguisher in their home

While simply having one fire extinguisher is the first step to increasing your home’s overall fire safety, it’s important to know how to use it and what types of fires you can put out with your fire extinguisher.

There are several classes of fire extinguishers you can have in your home. Nationwide recommends having one fire extinguisher on each level of your house and near places fires are likely to start, like the kitchen.

Fire Extinguisher Classes

Letter Symbol Uses Examples
A Ordinary combustible materials Cloth, wood, paper, textiles, rubber, trash and plastics
B Flammable liquids Grease, gasoline, oil, oil-based paints, solvents and tar
C Electrical equipment Appliances, tools or other equipment that’s plugged in
D Combustible metals Magnesium, titanium, zirconium, lithium, and potassium
In your home, you’d ideally want an A-B-C extinguisher, since it puts out many common types of fires. Class D extinguishers are typically found in industrial or lab settings.

Fire safety extends beyond having the correct tools and definitely requires putting fire safety prevention tips into practice. Our last finding reveals that a portion of Americans are putting themselves at risk.

16 Percent of Americans Make this Kitchen Fire Safety Mistake Every Day

In our survey, we found that 16 percent of Americans leave their kitchen’s unattended daily. Our chart below breaks down how often Americans make this mistake.

Leaving your kitchen unattended to go grab your laundry can be a risky mistake. In the same November 2018 NFPA report, the researchers found that 32 percent of home cooking fires were a result of unattended equipment.

They also found that a third of people who died from kitchen fires were sleeping. Make sure to double-check that your stove and oven are off. If you can help it, try not to cook when you’re tired to prevent accidentally leaving your kitchen equipment on.

Additional House Fire Safety Hazards

Kitchens are certainly an important part of your home to focus on, but fire safety for the entire home is crucial. During the colder months, it’s especially important to pay attention to your heating equipment since they are the second-highest cause of house fires.

The NFPA reports that local fire departments responded to 52,050 fires involving heating equipment between 2012 and 2016. They also found that:

  • The leading contributing factor of home heating fires (27 percent) were from a failure to clean equipment.
  • The leading contributing factor of ignition home heating fire deaths (54 percent) was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, like clothing and bedding.
  • Most home heating fire deaths (86 percent) involved stationary or portable space heaters
  • Nearly half of home heating fires (48 percent) happened in December, January and February


Heating related fires are preventable. In the midst of the cold winter seasons, make sure you:

  • Place heating equipment away from anything flammable
  • Clean and maintain your heating equipment
  • Keep a close eye on space heaters

Taking Your First Steps Towards Home Fire Safety

Home fire safety, especially in the kitchen, is crucial for the upcoming holidays and the rest of the calendar year. Getting informed about potential hazards, taking the right precautions and making a plan can lower your risk of fire hazards while keeping you and your loved ones safe.

A good place to start is by checking all of your appliances and anything else in your home that produces heat. Check if they’re in good working condition and if you see anything potentially wrong or hazardous.

Things like boilers should be the right size to ensure you’re not overpaying for your heating costs or otherwise being inefficiently used. Learn more about boilers to see the qualities of an efficient one and if you’re in the market for a new one.

By FurnaceCompare.com

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