Nothing could come close to the terror of seeing your house on fire, especially if occupants are still inside. Minnesota reported 70 fire-related accidents in 2022 – that’s 20 families that will never see their loved ones or have something to remember them by since all they had was destroyed.
Unfortunately, with so many causative agents lying around the house, the threat of a fire accident always looms around the corner. That’s why it’s crucial to take necessary precautions.
In this article, we will discuss some of the biggest causes of house fire accidents and what to do if it happens.
Common Causes of Housefires
Before you learn how to prevent house fires, you first need to understand what causes them in the first place. Most of these causes are quite familiar, but some may surprise you. In that regard, here are some of the most common causes of house fires:
Home heating is the second-most prevalent cause of house fires, with heating equipment accounting for 15% of house fires. This includes everything from space and baseboard heaters to heating and cooling appliances like air conditioning systems.
When you leave fabrics or combustible materials close to these appliances, they’re bound to catch fire once they reach a certain temperature. There’s also the issue of fuel. Some heating appliances run on kerosene and natural gas, both of which are easily ignitable if not properly stored.
Ideally, you should always store your fuel safely and follow the safety instructions in the appliance’s manual. It would also help if you did regular maintenance and never left the heater unsupervised. At the same time, while it may sound like a good idea to keep the house warm for when you get back, leaving the heater unattended significantly increases the likelihood of heating-related accidents.
Everything from your cooking appliances to the waste products they produce could cause a fire accident. In fact, cooking fires beat heating-related fire accidents by a mile, causing about 49% of residential house fires.
Most of these fires are attributed to grease. This messy but otherwise seemingly harmless substance has the potential to combust spontaneously when exposed to temperatures above 600 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn’t even have to be in direct contact with flames. Any hot surface can bring it to the point of combustion.
Besides grease, cooking appliances like toasters, ovens, and grills also pose a significant risk. When left unattended, they can reach very high temperatures, enough to combust any flammable materials in contact, even breadcrumbs.
Despite being the most popular Christmas holiday symbol in the U.S., Christmas trees are a significant fire hazard, especially natural, green trees. By the end of the holiday season, most natural trees are dry to the bone, which means that any spark, heat from an incandescent bulb, or direct flame from a nearby candle could cause them to ignite.
In this regard, it’s best to go for artificial trees made from vinyl and plastic needles. They might not look as good, but they’re significantly safer. That said, placing flames near the tree or having unsafe electrical connections on and around the tree could still pose a significant risk.
One in 20 home fires are started by smoking materials. This represents a whopping 5% of all home fires. Cigarette butts have a very high potential for causing home fires, especially if you’re smoking next to a rug, furniture, or other combustible materials.
Many smoking-related accidents occur when the home occupant falls asleep, leaving the cigarette burning. In such cases, the flaming butts fall on the furniture and ignite it. What’s even more concerning is most people wake up when the house is already on fire, and it’s too late to put the fire out or even escape.
What To Do In The Event Of A House Fire
While taking necessary precautions could help prevent house fire accidents from happening, it helps to know how to act in case they happen. Here’s what to do in the event of a house fire accident:
Try Extinguishing the Fire
Most housefires start small and are easily manageable. If a housefire happens right in front of you, and you identify the cause as having little potential to spiral out of control, you can try to extinguish it from a safe distance.
In that regard, it’s always advisable to have a fire extinguisher in the house. But you also need to know how to use it. When you must extinguish a fire, use the PASS rule: Point towards the fire, Aim towards the base of the flame, Squeeze the handle on the extinguisher, and Sweep from side to side until the fire is extinguished.
For small grease flames, try smothering the fire with a metal lid. Never, in any circumstances, pour water on a grease flame. That could cause the grease to explode, hurling small fireballs across the room.
Crawl Beneath the Smoke to Escape
Between 60% and 80% of fatalities in fire accidents are attributed to smoke inhalation. The smoke emanating from the fire could cause lightheadedness and loss of consciousness when inhaled.
In cases where you can’t extinguish the fire and need to escape, try crawling on the ground to evade the fumes. You should also take note of exits and crawl towards them, preferably when holding a wet cloth over your nose and mouth.
Check Doors and Door Knobs for Heat
Before escaping into a different room, always check the door and door knob for heat. A hot door is typically indicative of a raging rife on the other side of the door. Under any circumstances, never open a door if it’s hot to the touch. Similarly, if you open a door and see smoke or flames on the other side, you should close it immediately and look for another exit.
The Bottom Line
Most fire accidents are preventable, but some are simply accidents. To keep yourself and your family safe, it’s always advisable to take all necessary precautions to prevent fire accidents, including installing smoke alarms to notify you in case of a fire. Additionally, you should never try to put out a fire that’s going out of control. In such scenarios, it’s always better to escape and call the emergency services once you’re at a safe distance.