5 Leading Causes of House Fires


The causes of house fires are well known but that doesn’t mean they cannot happen unexpectedly. Fire is such an unpredictable force and it can escalate very quickly, making what seemed to be a normal activity, instantly dangerous. These fire-related accidents happen quickly but can be devastating. Fires easily cause thousands of dollars in damage as well as injuries or fatalities. Everyone should take care when dealing with an open flame and understand what qualifies as a fire hazard at home. 

In this post, we are offering some advice on how to avoid fires, but we know just how difficult that can be if your house is at first. Which is why we are offering a free property damage inspection, so you can repair your home for free before any fires. In the meantime. Prevention is better than cure,. But in all other cases, we refer to the politician Bob Riley who said “If my house is on fire, I don’t need the fire chief telling me I should not have built the house out of wood. I need somebody to put the fire out.”

Injuries that happen due to fire-related accidents can be very serious. From third-degree burns to smoke inhalation, your family must work to actively prevent the leading causes of home fires. Not to mention the damage fire does to your home. The good news is, if your home has been damaged in a fire, you can contact an experienced property damage lawyer who will fight to make the insurance companies pay.

Below is a list of the most common causes of house fires, the damage they do, and how to prevent them.

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1. Cooking

Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires by far, accounting for 48% of all reported residential fires. It is also the leading cause of home fire injuries and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Home Structure Fires 2019 Report

Kitchen fires, while the leading cause of home fires are normally only seriously ignited by grease fires. When your cooking oil becomes too hot, exceeding 375 degrees Fahrenheit, it will start smoking and then burst into flames. If you start seeing wisps of smoke, you need to act fast to prevent the fire from igniting. 

Here are a few tips to follow if you accidentally set a grease fire in your kitchen:

  • Remove the source of heat 
  • Cover the lit oil with a metal lid 
  • Pour baking soda generously over smaller grease fires 
  • Use a Class B dry chemical fire extinguisher 
  • Escape and call 911

For grease fires, there are a few extremely important things to remember:

  • Do not use water
  • Do not transfer the burning pot anywhere 
  • Only baking soda can be used, not any other baking materials 

2. Heating 

Portable heaters are the second-leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. The reason they cause so many fires is that many homeowners don’t respect the spatial requirements required of these items. Heaters have specific instructions on the box or label to let their owners know how close they can be placed to other items, furniture, or walls. 

These are not just recommendations; these spatial requirements have been tested and are required to ensure your safe use of the product and to prevent any fires caused by them. 

Leaving a heater next to a pile of clothes or a bare wall may cause a gradual build-up of heat that results in igniting the flammable object, piece of furniture, or wall. If a wall catches fire, you should evacuate as soon as possible. Do not risk your life. 

With the wide variety of styles and types of space heaters, it is important to always read the safety guidelines to keep you and your family safe from any potential fires caused by heaters. Be aware that heaters that use fuel (like kerosene) are more likely to cause a house fire than their electrical counterparts. 

3. Electrical Fires

Fires caused by malfunctioning electrical outlets or faulty wiring account for a large portion of household fires. Electrical fires account for more than 51,000 house fires and over 500 deaths per year, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

To avoid potential accidents and problems that may result in an electrical fire, have your home inspected before purchase. Plus, schedule occasional inspections to ensure your electrical system and lighting fixtures are up to code and safe. Ensure that all fire alarms are replaced every decade and that batteries are promptly replaced. 

See if your local fire station will inspect your alarms for free. Several fire stations participate in this type of program and are happy to make sure you and your loved ones are safe. 

4. Smoking

Smoking materials like cigarettes, cigars, and pipes are the leading cause of deaths in home fires, though they only account for 5% of all home fires. This is for a few reasons. Smoking materials lit inside are relatively small and easy to forget. And while several individuals use smoking as a relaxing activity, there is a likelihood of falling asleep while smoking, leaving the lit material to drop on the floor to catch carpet or other flammable materials on fire. 

You should smoke outside whenever possible, and never leave lit smoking materials unattended. If you must smoke indoors, do not lounge or relax on flammable furniture, as this increases the risk of falling asleep. If you’re smoking, remain alert and aware the whole time. 

Most deaths from fires started in the living room, den, family room, or bedroom. If you smoke, be sure to put out any lit butts fully and not just toss them. Smoking-related deaths happen most commonly due to the smoker having fallen asleep and not rousing quickly enough. 

5. Candles 

Who doesn’t love candles? We use candles to celebrate birthdays, see in the dark, and just to relax. But we should never forget that candles are an open flame in our home. Candles account for 3% of all home fire deaths. Roughly one-third of all house fires started by candles are ignited in the bedroom. Twenty-one candle fires are reported per day, causing 6% of home fire injuries. 

A candle should never be left unattended, and should always be extinguished before leaving the room or going to bed. Homeowners should consider other options like battery-operated flashlights instead of emergency candles and remember to keep all flammable materials at least 12 inches away from candles at all times.

Fire Safety Should Be a Top Priority

At Steinger, Greene & Feiner, we know a house fire can be devastating. That’s why we encourage all families to follow these fire safety rules. 

Don’t be a hero. 

During a house fire, the torture of not knowing if your loved ones are safe can be excruciating. You may feel the urge to dive back into danger to be sure they are safe. This only increases the odds of injury or death to yourself. 

You are not trained and do not have the gear to navigate the flames safely. Wait for firefighters to arrive on the scene and inform them of anyone who may still be in the fire. 

Minimize risk at home.

It’s important to take the top five leading causes of house fires into consideration. Make sure those in your home know how to cook and that little ones stay away from stoves. Keep all candles and portable heaters a safe distance away from walls, clothes, and other items. Get your wiring inspected and never smoke indoors. 

Fire alarms should be checked every six months. 

If your fire alarms aren’t working or have malfunctioned, then they will not notify you of a fire in your home. Many fire stations will check your fire alarms free of charge. Call your local fire station to see if they offer this service. 

Escape plans should be known by everyone and practiced. 

Crafting an emergency fire escape plan is important, especially if you have small children. Review where to go, how to exit the house, how to stay under the smoke, and identify a meetup location. This can help your family reduce panic during a house fire.

Fire extinguishers should be found in the home, but only as a precaution. 

Fire extinguishers are an important part of being ready for a house fire, but they should only be used sparingly. Extinguishers can only put out relatively small fires and it depends on the type of fire as well. Grab it if you can, but do not rely on it in a house fire. 

The effects of fire can be devastating. In the event of a fire, your homeowner’s insurance should be handled by capable adjusters and insurance agents. But if you feel the insurance company is undercutting or denying your claim unfairly, give Steinger, Greene & Feiner a call. We will make sure any claim is handled properly and that you are paid the coverage you are entitled to. We help residents who have been affected by fires with homes in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Coral Gables, Miami, Okeechobee, Port St. Lucie, Tampa, and Nashville.



About The Author

Michael Steinger

Michael Steinger

The Florida BarFlorida Bar Young Lawyers DivisionMillion Dollar Advocates ForumMillion Dollar Advocates ForumBest Workers Compensation Attorneys in MiamiBest Car Accident Lawyers in MiamiLawyers of distinction

MICHAEL S. STEINGER, founding partner of Steinger, Greene & Feiner, believes in representing real people, not big businesses. Since the firm’s creation in 1997, Steinger, Greene & Feiner has never represented an insurance company or large corporation, and he vows to keep this promise. Over the course of his career, Michael has handled thousands of Florida accident cases, recovering millions of dollars for his clients and earning him membership into the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Staying up-to-date on the ever-evolving laws protecting injury victims and their families, Michael is an active member of the American Bar Association, the Palm Beach, and St. Lucie Bar Associations, and sits on the Auto Insurance Committee of the Florida Justice Association.