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Causes of Fire Damage
By Kimberly Duncan
Fires are the second leading cause of accidental death around the home. While some causes of fire are general and can occur anywhere, other causes are more specific for certain rooms.
General Causes of Fire
Don't underestimate the fire risk from electricity. The fact that there is no flame involved does not mean that there is no risk present.
Hot plugs and sockets and blown fuses may overheat and start a fire. Exposed wires may cause a spark, leading to a fire.
Smoking is a big cause of fire-related deaths. Most cigarette-related fires start because the cigarette is not put out completely. Additional causes include falling asleep with a burning cigarette and not using proper ashtrays.
A tiny candle flame can have devastating consequences. Most candle-related fires start due to drafts that push the flame to ignite combustible items and tilting candles that are not placed in proper holders.
Room by Room Causes of Fire
The kitchen is the largest category of causes of residential fires as it contains many hazards that can cause fires. The common combination of open fire, grease, electricity, and water is hazardous.
One of the most common fires in the kitchen is a grease fire, usually caused by frying pans.
This type is a dangerous, life-threatening fire as it can set the entire kitchen and adjacent rooms on fire.
Additionaly, less dangerous fires are dry cooking fires and oven fires. These types are easy to control and are not likely to cause major damage.
Kitchen appliances may also cause fire if not well maintained. Be very careful when dealing with water and electricity to prevent electrical shock and electrical fire.
Many bedroom fires are caused by misuse or poor maintenance of electrical devices. Electrical fires can start due to overloading extension cords, heat build-up in worn electric cords, and the use of electric blankets and warmers with no lab approval.
Heaters are a special concern during winter if they are recklessly placed near linens, clothes, curtains, and other combustible items.
Other common bedroom fires are caused by children who play with matches and lighters, usually in closets and under beds where there are a lot of items that catch fire easily.
Attics, Basements and the Garage
As popular storage areas these places usually contain fire hazards such as gasoline and other flammable liquids that should be stored in metal cans outdoors.
Old clothes, papers and other combustible items are also hazardous and should be stored safely. Keep a clear space between these items and the furnace or hot water heater.
Many of the electrical fire hazards are also located in these areas. Worn cords, blown fuses, electrical boxes and other signs of electrical trouble should be treated immediately.
Heating Devices and Fireplaces
These are developed to generate heat and may be hazardous if not well maintained or if overloaded. Operating the fireplace without a screen or glass doors will allow sparks to fly into the room and cause fire.
A common cause for fire is a blocked chimney where flammable creosote is built up promoting "chimney-fire" upon ignition.
Another cause of fire are combustible items such as wallpaper, curtains, furniture bedding, and clothing, that are neglected and left without maintaining adequate clearance around heaters. Leaving clothes to dry near a heater is a common mistake that leads to fire. Finally, leaving space heaters operating unattended is extremely dangerous as well.