5 Most Common Ways House Fires Are Started

House fires occur far too frequently in this country, and the sad fact is that almost all of them are preventable. With just a glance at the statistics involved, it's easy to see that the most common causes of house fires tend to fall in the same categories year after year, which means that homeowners make the same mistakes and oversights regularly.


All that boils down to awareness, and if more homeowners were aware of the potential for a devastating house fire to take place at their residence, most of them would take steps to prevent them. 


Below the most common causes of house fires are discussed, so that you and anyone you know can use this information to react, and try to prevent a house fire from claiming you and your home as victims sometime in the future.


How often do house fires start?

House fires are prevalent occurrences in American households. Statistics from the year 2017 reveal that approximately 1.3 million house fires occurred in that one year alone. This figure was a reduction of more than 6% compared to statistics from 10 years earlier, so you can see that house fires are very common incidents indeed. In those 1.3 million house fires occurring in 2017, there were a total of 3,400 fatalities associated, as well as an additional 14,670 injuries.

5 Most Common Ways House Fires Are Started

Altogether, those house fires cost more than $23 billion in property losses and related damage. Since statistics have been maintained by the National Fire Protection Association, there have always been a substantial number of house fires and related injuries or deaths. It seems that regardless of the attention called upon these incidents, they continue to occur at an alarming rate, usually by some very preventable cause.


What causes a house fire?

It's not very pleasant to think about, but house fires in American households are inevitable. However, that doesn't mean that we should accept them and ignore the possibility, especially those that are within your control like many of the seasonal fire causes. Every homeowner should take it upon themselves to try to prevent the most likely causes of a fire so that at least some steps are taken toward prevention.


Even while you're doing your best to avoid house fires, you should also realize that they are a distinct possibility. That means you should store all your valuables in a fireproof receptacle, and safeguard your household members by educating them about the potential. Here are the most commonly occurring causes of house fires in this country, and these are the ones you should do your best to avoid:

  • Smoking - There are nearly 1,000 deaths caused by careless smoking and discarded cigarettes every year. All it takes is for a lit cigarette to drop on a flammable household item, and it can quickly get out of control and become a major house fire. All smoking fires can easily be prevented if smokers would just walk outside and do their smoking off the premises.

  • Electrical Problems - About 51,000 fires are started every year as a result of home electrical issues. Even blenders or toasters can be the triggers for a considerable conflagration that starts up in the home and causes extensive damage. Frayed electrical cords are a widespread cause of house fires, as are overused power strips. Many of these fires can be prevented simply by inspecting power strips and electrical cables for any signs of damage.

  • Cooking Fires - Cooking is the number one cause of house fires in this country, which should come as no surprise, given the fact that high temperatures are always involved. When these high temperatures from the stovetop or the oven are not monitored, and foods are left to cook unattended, a dangerous situation can ensue. Either the food itself or various cooking accessories can quickly catch fire because of the heat, and that can spread throughout the kitchen and the entire household. The simplest way to prevent all this is to pay close attention to any foods being prepared, either on the stovetop or in the oven.

  • Candles - Candles cause about 18,000 house fires every year, for the most part, due to negligence. When a candle is left unattended, it can burn right down to the base and trigger some flammable material underneath into flames. These are also preventable simply by trimming the candle's wick so that the flame size doesn't get out of control. Even better, you could use battery-powered candles to achieve the same effect.

  • Appliances, heaters, etc. - When home appliances are over-used, or home heating systems are left unattended, it can very easily lead to a significant house fire. Space heaters are common causes for house fires, as are wood stoves that are not carefully attended. Children playing with matches or cigarette lighters lead to a number of house fires and injuries annually. All of these types of house fires can be prevented with a little more monitoring, and little greater attention being paid to potentially dangerous situations.


House Fire Safety Tips

There are hundreds of things you can do to help make your home more fireproof, and they're all worth doing so that you can avoid the possibility of having your house engulfed in flames. The home safety tips, which are most recommended, are broken down below in three distinct areas: before a fire, during a fire, and after a fire.

  • Before a fire – make sure to create a fire escape plan and practice it with family members at least once a year. It's a good idea to have two escape routes from each room, in case one avenue is blocked by flames. Make sure that windows in each room are not stuck, and can easily be opened. Check your smoke alarms periodically to make sure they're still functional, and make sure they're installed on every level of your household. You should have all your valuable family documents stored in a fireproof container, and you should have digital copies of them available so they can be reprinted. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to operate fire extinguishers, and consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your household.

  • During a fire – crawl low on the floor, so as to avoid the heaviest smoke and toxic gases which collect at higher altitudes. Before you open any doors, feel how hot the doorknob is, and don't open it if you feel significant heat. If you're unable to reach a family member who needs help, call 911 and exit the home yourself. If you have any pets which are trapped inside the flaming house, alert firefighters to this fact but don't go in yourself to retrieve them. If you are unable to exit the household, close the door to the room you're in, and try to cover all cracks and vents to prevent smoke from coming in. Dial 911 and let the dispatcher know exactly where you are. If your clothes happen to catch fire, you should immediately drop to the ground, cover your face, and roll back and forth until flames are extinguished. You can also put the fire out by using a wet towel, and if someone has been burned, use cold water to treat the affected area quickly. Make sure you have the necessary accommodations for older family members or those who may be disabled.

  • After a fire – contact the Red Cross or a similar agency if you require food, medicine, or temporary shelter. Contact your insurance company with all the details about the fire, and provide them with an inventory of damaged goods inside the home. Make sure your home is safe to enter if it hasn't been totally destroyed, and look out for structural damage when you first walk in. You should not try to reconnect entity utilities when you re-enter the home – it's much better to consult with local file firefighters to determine if that safe. Try to find the container which has your valuable documents stored and make sure this is still safe and untouched by flame. It's a good idea also to save all receipts from expenses you incur trying to recover from the fire. They may be needed by your insurance company, or you may be able to claim them as deductions on your income tax. Notify your bank or mortgage company about the fire and the extent of any damage.



The great tragedy about all house fires which occur in this country is that the vast majority of them were completely preventable. Regardless of the cause of a house fire, it's very likely that it could've been prevented with just a little bit more attention to detail, and a little greater caution. It may be a little more of a hassle to stay in the kitchen while cooking something in the oven or on the stovetop, but it's certainly preferable to having a house fire occur.


Smokers should always be doing their smoking outdoors, children should be taught about the danger of matches, lighters, and candles, and all your electrical cords and equipment should be periodically inspected. No one ever really expects that a fire will occur in their home, and that's why most of these precautions are ignored by so many. If more people were alerted to the dangers and the potential of a devastating house fire, a great many more people would take the necessary precautions.