The Common Causes of House Fires | a Guide to Fire Safety

A fire in your home can be a devastating and life-changing event. Unfortunately, house fires are more common than you might think, and they can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), approximately 1.3 million fires were reported in the United States in 2019, resulting in over 3,700 deaths and $14.8 billion in property damage. While there are many possible causes of house fires, some are more common than others.

Here are the five most common causes of house fires and what you can do to prevent them. 

1. Cooking

Cooking is the leading cause of house fires in the United States. The most common cause of cooking fires is unattended cooking, such as leaving a pot on the stove or forgetting food in the oven. Grease fires are also a common type of cooking fire, and they can quickly get out of control if not properly extinguished.

To prevent cooking fires, always stay in the kitchen while cooking, and never leave food unattended on the stove or in the oven. Keep flammable items away from the stove and oven, such as potholders, towels, and paper products.

2. Heating

Heating equipment, such as space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves, is the second leading cause of house fires. The most common cause of heating fires is placing flammable items too close to the heat source, such as clothing or furniture.

Keep flammable items at least three feet away from the heating equipment to prevent heating fires. Never use space heaters to dry clothing or other items, and always turn off space heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.

3. Electrical

The most common causes of electrical fires are faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, and the misuse of electrical cords and outlets.

Have a licensed electrician inspect your home's wiring and electrical system to prevent electrical fires. Avoid overloading outlets and circuits; never run cords under rugs or furniture. Replace damaged cords and appliances; never use them if they smoke or emit a burning smell.

4. Smoking

The most common cause of smoking fires is smoking in bed, which can easily ignite bedding and furniture.

To prevent smoking fires, never smoke in bed or when you are tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Use ashtrays with deep, wide lips; never leave cigarettes or cigars unattended. Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.

5. Candles

Candles may seem harmless, but they are responsible for thousands of yearly house fires. The most common cause of candle fires is leaving them unattended or placing them too close to flammable items.

Always keep candles in sturdy holders on a level, the heat-resistant surface to prevent candle fires. Never leave candles unattended; always extinguish them before leaving the room or going to bed.


House fires can be caused by various factors, from cooking and heating equipment to electrical problems and smoking. By taking steps to prevent these common causes of fires, you can help ensure the safety of your home and family. Ensure you have working smoke detectors on every level of your home and a fire escape plan in case of an emergency. Being proactive and vigilant can help reduce the risk of a devastating house fire.

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