How to Prevent a House Fire

List: Posted: 10/13/11

House fires injure and kill thousands of adults, children and pets every year.  Some house fires start unexpectedly due to severe storms and other natural occurrences, but the majority of house fires are completely preventable and are caused by people who have unsafe household practices.

Here are the most common causes of house fires, and what steps you can take to make sure your home and family are protected.


Stove-top cooking is the leading cause of house fires, and usually start when someone begins cooking on the stove then becomes distracted or walks away.  If you are stove-top cooking, especially with grease or oil, stand nearby at all times.  If you are leaving the kitchen, even for a minute, turn off all the burners.  You can immediately turn them back on when you return (if you are cooking something delicate that needs constant heat, you shouldn't be leaving the kitchen anyway). 


Also, when cooking with oil, always keep a lid nearby.  If the pan ignites, you can suffocate the fire with the lid.  NEVER use water to try and douse an oil fire.  This can cause severe burns and an explosion of flames.

Space Heaters and Fireplaces

Second to cooking, space heaters are the second cause of preventable house fires.  Portable, electric space heaters can set fire to bedsheets, furniture and draperies if they come into contact, and should always be given at least 3 feet of clear space.  Also, be sure to place space heaters out of the flow of traffic and away from children and pets that can knock them over.  Extension cords should never be used with space heaters.  And only place space heaters on solid, firm surfaces; not on chairs or other unstable surfaces.

If you regularly burn logs in your fireplace, periodically check your hearth for cracks and damaged sheet metal which can be a fire hazard.  Always use glass fire doors or a wire mesh screen to contain popping embers, and only burn dry, treated wood to help with creosote buildup.  When removing ash, place ash in a metal container and make sure the ash is completely cold before discarding.


Smoking is the leading cause of all house fire related deaths, and usually occurs when someone with a lit cigarette is resting on a bed or couch and falls asleep.  A good rule of thumb is to keep all smoking designated outside.  If you must smoke inside your home, don't smoke while you are lying down, or sitting down and tired... no matter how relaxing it is.  Make sure you are up and alert.

Electrical Cords

Faulty electrical cords, such as cords that are frayed or cracked, can spark and ignite anything nearby.  Make sure all of your electrical cords are in good condition and are not overloading the wall circuits (if this is happening, use a power strip).  Visit a home improvement store as soon as you notice a damaged wire or wall socket, and replace it right away.  Also, inspect the attic, basement and any crawl spaces that may have electrical cord damage due to insects or munching rodents.


Due to their very nature of being an open flame, unattended candles are accidents just waiting to happen.  If you have an active household where there is a lot of movement of people or pets, it's a good idea to stay clear of the traditional flame candles and opt for battery-operated models that look and smell just like the real ones.  And although nothing says romance as lit bedside candles, if sleep is anywhere on the agenda, it's best to avoid using these in the bedroom, too.

In addition, all homes should have one smoke detector on each floor and preferably in every room.  New smoke detectors should be installed every five years, and checked at least every six months.  Fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should also be installed and maintained, and depending on your budget and living quarters, a home sprinkler system is a great investment to help extinguish fires whether you are in or away from home.

Fire Sprinkler Systems Installation

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  • Sterling, VA 20164
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  • (703) 406-9811

The material in this article is for informational purposes only. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of See Additional Information

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