When I was younger, my aunt’s apartment burned down one January. Whole apartment just went up in a matter of a few minutes. Although they managed to save the most important things, it was still a pretty heavy blow. After some investigation, the firefighters found the cause was a laundry drier. Someone in the apartment had forgotten to clean the lint filter before starting a load. As the drier heated up, the lint caught fire and spread from there to the rest of the building.
Winter Is House Fire Season
House fires are one of the most devastating accidents you can suffer. They could potentially destroy your entire home, along with all your possessions. Even if they don’t get that out of control, there will still be some damage from both the flames and the smoke. While the common causes of house fires are constant year round, the number of house fires increases during the winter. As the weather gets cold, we spend more time in doors. We turn our heaters on, and may even pull out portable heaters to keep warm. This increases the risk of a house fires if you aren’t careful. The best way to prevent this is to know about the risks. I spoke with Alpine Cleaning and Restoration to learn about the most common causes of house fires in Cache Valley.
1. Cooking Fires
The majority of house fires – 58% – are caused by cooking-related incidents. The number one cause of cooking fires is simply walking away from the stove while it’s on. If you want to prevent a cooking fire, always stay near your cooking equipment while it’s in use. Even something as simple as leaving the room to answer a phone call can be all it takes to forget.
Always use a timer. If the timer has a loud alarm, all the better. That way, if you do get distracted, you’ll have a reminder. Always follow cooking instructions, especially when you’re cooking something big, like a Thanksgiving turkey. Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you keep anything flammable away from the cooking surfaces. Do not put anything on the stovetop that you don’t intend to cook, and store flammable liquids and powders away from it.
This may come as a shock, but heating equipment gets hot. I know, right? Who’d have ever believed it? That’s why heating systems are the second biggest cause of fires. Usually this results from a failure to clean the heater or chimney. Dust is flammable and can easily catch fire if it chokes the heater too much. Make sure you have it cleaned every year. Portable space heaters are also a serious risk. They get very hot and can easily set fire to nearby substances, like dirty laundry carelessly dropped on the floor, or the blankets on your bed if you set them too close. If you set one up in your home office, be sure that it’s away from any paper. They also need regular cleaning. Don’t take any chances with them.
3. Electrical Fires
Electrical fires are another of the most common causes. Faulty lighting fixtures cause most electrical fires. Either they’re installed to close to something flammable, or they’re installed incorrectly and short out. Other causes of electrical fires include overloading outlets by plugging in too many power strips, using the wrong type of bulb for a lighting fixture, and using appliances with frayed cords. Always have a qualified electrician install and repair your electrical systems.
4. Open Flames
People like to light fires over the holidays. Usually in the fireplace, but you also need to worry about candles, Christmas decorations, and naughty children with matches. If you want to start a fire in your home, make sure the fireplace and chimney are clean and clear of debris. If you light candles, don’t leave them unattended and make sure you put them out before going to bed. Avoid using real candles for Christmas tree decorations. If you smoke, do not do so before going to bed, as it’s easy to fall asleep with a lit cigarette. If a lit cigarette starts a fire in your bed, the chances of dying in a house fire go up dramatically for obvious reasons. Finally, make sure you always store your candles, matches, and lighters in a secret place where your children can’t find them.
Don’t Forget About Fire Alarms
A working fire alarm is the difference between losing a little and losing a lot. It can even be a life or death situation. 60% of all deaths in house fires happen in houses that don’t have proper smoke alarms. While most homes have them built in during construction by law these days, older homes may not have them, so be sure to check up on them. Check the batteries to make sure they are still good. The battery life on most commercially sold fire alarms will be many years, but you still need to do tests to make sure nothing’s faulty.
The best way to avoid a fire is to prevent it. It’s easy to think that it’ll never happen to you, but it always could. Make sure you take all the needed precautions. If you do, you shouldn’t need to worry. There are no guarantees, though, so always be aware of the risks. A bit of awareness now can save you a lot of grief in the future.
Stay safe, and enjoy your holidays.