It’s 1 am, you wake up coughing because there’s smoke billowing out from under your door. You remember your training, touching the door before you open it…the heat scalds you as you shrink back in horror. Do you jump out the window? Are the children safe? Where’s your cell phone?
Home fires are all too common in America, with 26% of reported fires from 2016-1010 occurring in homes. 75% of civilian fire deaths and injuries are caused by home fires. Almost as bad, the amount of money damaged in home fires is astronomical. In that 5-year period, there were more than 340,000 home fires PER YEAR, causing more than 2,600 deaths and costing nearly $7.6 billion in property damage.
Home fires covers a variety of structures, each with their own unique dangers. House fires might only put the immediate family at risk, but it may also take firefighters and first responders much longer to get to the house depending upon its location. Apartment fires, town home and condominium fires might be closer to fire houses, but the number of people they put at risk is much higher.
There’s also a question of materials – were the materials used to build these homes organic or synthetic? Was the drywall imported from China and filled with harmful, flammable chemicals like formaldehyde? Is the house older, and could there be asbestos in the insulation that could put anyone near the flames at risk of long-term health issues?
Fires in the home are started primarily from a few different sources:
Most home fires begin in the kitchen. The stove, oven, and even the microwave can be the source of fires starting either from malfunction or user error. Many people fail to understand exactly how dangerous cooking in the home can be, from the open flames under pots and pans to oil and grease fires. Many kitchens are also filled with flammable materials, including the wood and paneling in cabinets, the dish towels, the oven mitts and more. Cooking can be distracting, and that often leads to danger. 17% of the deaths at home are in the kitchen, 14% of the property damage is to the kitchen, 38% of the injuries happen in the kitchen, and 44% of the fires are started in the kitchen.
Heating a home is necessary almost nationwide from November through March. But, some of the ways we heat our homes can cause home fires. Fireplaces are one obvious danger, but more dangerous are smaller heaters many people purchase. Those small, plug-in heaters can short out and cause fires that ignite quickly. Many people have left these smaller heaters on overnight, and when a fire starts at night, it can be deadly. Sleeping people are particularly vulnerable to smoke inhalation.
There are pages of rules so thick they could fill a phone book when it comes to wiring a home for electricity. However, fires still start because of faulty wiring. Either the electrical is faulty because of the initial installation or because someone attempted to fix something and failed. Electrical fires can also have two sources – wiring in the walls or a short by a defective product. Many fires begin in the living room, where there are wires everywhere. From televisions to computers to Christmas trees to lamps – the living room is a hot bed for home electrical fires.
Lighting equipment, such as lamps, are one of the main sources of house fires in America. With cords that can fray and start fires to poorly designed lighting products that can explode, they are extremely dangerous. Lighting equipment includes lights installed into walls and ceilings in all areas of the home. The light bulbs can easily get hot, and once an item is placed against it, a fire can occur. Many of these fires are the result of negligence, but they can also be the fault of the designer making a light bulb that gets too hot or is too easily accessible.
Arson is not the primary source of home fires, but it is a real problem. Whether the work of a mentally disturbed arsonist, or someone who is deliberately attempting to harm the people inside the home, arson is a criminal offense that can be charges as a felony.
Smoking cigarettes has become wildly unpopular, but they are still a source of home fores. And, there are many other types of smoking materials that can cause fires, including pipes, marijuana cigarettes (joints), cigars, and even vape pens and e-cigarettes. The instances of exploding e-cigarettes has been on the rise as “vaping” has steadily replaced smoking tobacco among many young people. While actual tobacco products have a lit end which can cause fires, ecigs and vape pens have lithium batteries which can overheat and explode, sending hot chemicals in all directions.