In 2011, approximately 370,000 fires were reported in the U.S. These fires caused over 2,500 deaths and nearly 14,000 injuries. House fires were responsible for almost $7 billion in damage during 2011 alone. Unfortunately, these statistics are not atypical. Each year, families lose their homes to fires that could potentially have been prevented. Understanding the causes of home structural fires can help save property and lives that would otherwise be lost to these destructive events.
The National Fire Protection Association has identified ten primary causes for house fires in the U.S. While rankings may vary slightly from year to year, these ten activities and conditions pose the greatest risk of igniting a potentially deadly house fire.
Most of the primary causes for home structural fires in the U.S. are preventable. Homeowners can take a number of steps to reduce the risk of fire and to protect themselves and their loved ones in the event that a fire does occur.
• Space heaters should be placed at least three feet away from furniture, walking paths inside the home and walls.
• For those who smoke, restricting this activity to the outdoors can significantly reduce the risk of starting a fire. Never smoke when sleepy or in bed.
• Keep a functioning fire extinguisher in the kitchen and in any other room that contains cooking or heating equipment.
• Schedule an inspection of the home’s electrical system by a trained professional to identify any potential problems before they become critical.
• Keep all fire sources secured where children cannot access them.
• Establish a family fire escape plan and practice following the designated escape routes. By planning and practicing in advance of a fire, family members can act more quickly and confidently if the need ever arises.
• Retain a copy of important legal documents, insurance policies, family photos and other necessary paperwork in a secure location away from the home.
Even if the house appears structurally intact, wait for the go-ahead from a qualified professional before entering the home after a fire. The interior of the house may still have areas of standing water, so it is essential to watch out for slick areas when navigating the areas affected by the fire. Here are a few other tips to keep in mind after a fire.
The damage and injuries caused by a house fire can be devastating. By taking steps to prevent fires and by establishing a proactive plan to deal with them effectively, families and individuals can protect themselves against property loss and personal injury due to these catastrophic events.