House Fires Could Never Happen To Me… or Could They?

How many times have you heard of a house fire and thought: Oh, that could have been prevented but it could never happen to me? The truth is, there are many fire hazards lurking in your home that are often overlooked. Becoming aware of them is your first step to prevention.

Here are 10 fire risks in your home that need your attention.

  1. Distracted cooking
    According to Statistics Canada, cooking is the leading cause of home fires and injuries. Do not leave a heating oven or pots and pans on a burning stovetop unattended. Eliminate all forms of distractions when cooking including the phone and TV. If you need to leave the kitchen, ensure someone is there to keep an eye on the oven or stove. Always keep a portable fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case of fire. Never use water to put out a kitchen fire as it may spread or exacerbate the fire.
  2. Inadequate kitchen housekeeping
    Grease, heat, dust, and a source of ignition make a perfect storm for kitchen fires. While keeping your stove and oven clean is important, do not forget to clean the rangehood as well to eliminate grease buildup that could cause a fire. Clear out the breadcrumbs in your toaster as they tend to burn and smoke easily. A cluttered kitchen is another hazard to watch out for, particularly when leaving towels and other flammables too close to a heat source. Check kitchen appliances regularly and replace faulty ones.
  3. Overloading electrical outlets
    With Canadians working from home more often, it’s likely that you are plugging in more electronics. However, too many electrical devices plugged into one outlet can overload the circuit and cause an electrical fire or even electrocution. Older homes may not have proper wiring to handle the number of connected appliances and devices we have today. Choose an outlet tap which plugs into your existing outlet and adds more receptacles or get an electrician to install more outlets. Unplug any devices when they are not in use.
  4. Unattended candles or not using candle holders
    Candles are great for creating a cozy ambience in your home, but they shouldn’t be lit and left unattended or placed close to flammable materials such as curtains and carpets; snuff them out before leaving the room. Candles should always be lit on candle holders and at least 10 centimetres apart from one another. Never place lit candles under shelving or other surfaces.
  5. Careless smoking
    According to Canada’s National Fire Information Database, smoking is a leading cause of house fires, up there with cooking. Fires could happen when smokers think they are throwing out cigarette butts that are completely extinguished when in fact, they are still burning. These butts could catch on something flammable. Avoid smoking inside the house. Always ensure that cigarette butts are completely snuffed out in ashtrays. Do not use a planter as a makeshift ashtray as potting soil is fibrous and can be dry.
  6. Lint-clogged dryer vents
    Red Cross states that dryers are responsible for 90% of appliance fires. Hot air trapped inside a lint-clogged dryer vent can start a fire. Clear the lint from your dryer lint screen after every load, and your laundry exhaust pipe and vent at least once a year. You may choose to use a drill attachment to help you get deep into the vent to clean out all the lint or purchase a new duct altogether.
  7. Dirty chimneys or fireplaces
    Over time, creosotes or tar deposits and soot can build up in your chimney or wood-burning fireplace. This build-up is a fire hazard. Every chimney and wood-burning fireplace needs to be serviced professionally on a regular basis. Professionals can be called in to do a chimney sweep and complete routine maintenance to ensure your chimney and fireplace are working efficiently and will not cause a fire risk.
  8. Pests near electrical wires
    Pests and critters such as rats and squirrels can get inside the house and build nests with combustible materials such as paper and dried grass near heat sources and electrical wires. This situation could escalate into a fire incident. Some pesky rodents would also find electrical wires as tasty snacks and chew on them. Set up traps or get the assistance of an exterminator to keep your home safe from these annoying creatures.
  9. Outdoor fires
    We love sitting around an outdoor fire and having barbecues in the backyard. Whether it is an outdoor fire pit, a built-in fireplace, a chimenea or an outdoor stove, there is still a fire hazard. Ensure that the fire pit is placed on level ground and at least 10 to 20 feet away from any structure or plant with nothing hanging overhead. Avoid lighting fires in windy conditions and always keep a bucket of water, or sand, or a garden hose close by in case of a fire incident. Only burn wood that is clean and untreated and do not use lighter fluid, kerosene, or gasoline to start a fire. For more safety tips on outdoor fires, read this short article.
  10. Overheating space heaters
    Space heaters can be less expensive to use if you only want to heat one room or supplement inadequate heating. However, space heaters, especially older ones, can overheat or ignite a fire. Always read and follow the operating instructions. Place heater away from flammable items and ensure there is sufficient space around it. Do not leave it unattended. Unplug it when it is not in use. If possible, avoid using aging space heaters.

House fires can happen to anyone at any time. It is important to seek out potential fire hazards in your home and find ways to eliminate them or reduce the risks. Home fires can often be prevented. Besides taking the necessary safety precautions listed above, ensure your home is also equipped with fire extinguishers and working smoke detectors. It is also important to get protected with a home insurance policy that will help protect you and your family from the financial losses caused by a fire. To ensure you have the right coverage for your home, speak with a Kent & Essex Mutual Insurance broker today.