House fires are one of the most devastating things that can happen to an individual or a family. Not only are they incredibly dangerous and can lead to tragic fatalities, but can be emotionally and psychologically damaging even if nobody is physically hurt. One of the best ways to avoid a house fire is to be aware of the most common causes. Many of these are a case of common sense, but some common causes of fire might not be so obvious.
Electrical appliances cause house fires every year. The appliance does not need to be faulty to start a fire. Appliances that become hot, such as irons, hairdryers and curling irons pose the greatest threat. Never leave these appliances unattended and if these appliances smell like they are burning, unplug them immediately. Overloaded plug sockets are also a major cause of fires. If a socket is overloaded, the wires will become hot and may spark, igniting flammable objects nearby and causing a fire. Surprisingly, telephone and laptop chargers have been known to start fires because they have a tendency to become hot if left plugged in.
Chip pan fires are not as common as they used to be, however according to statistics from Merseyside Fire and Rescue, flammable cooking liquids account for 70% of house fires. In fact, almost all house fires begin in the kitchen, either as a result of oils or by flammable materials being left close to open flames and sources of heat. Tea towels are a common culprit, which catch fire very easily from open flame gas grills. Leaving cooking appliances switched on for a long time can pose a double risk. Firstly, any flammable materials near the appliance might catch light. Secondly, the plug socket may become overworked and hot itself, resulting in an electrical fire.
Smoking is another major cause of house fires. Most commonly, fires are started by people smoking in bed. Hot ash falls onto the bed clothes, causing it to go up in flames, or the smoker may fall asleep with the lit cigarette and set a nearby object on fire. The fire service advise very strongly against smoking in bed at all, but it is always vitally important to ensure any smoking materials are fully extinguished before leaving them unattended. Likewise, unattended candles can cause house fires. Never ever leave a candle burning unattended, even if it seems to be on a safe and clear surface. Any open flame should always be watched carefully.
Electrical heaters can cause fires if items are placed directly on top of them. Never use an electrical heater to dry damp clothing. Unlike central-heating radiators, electrical heaters contain live electrical filaments that should never be allowed to get wet. Getting the heater wet, or blocking the top of it with clothing, will cause the electrical components to burn out and this can result in dangerous sparks. Similarly, it is important not to cover lamps or other light fittings with material of any kind. Many kinds of light bulbs become surprisingly hot and can easily set flammable materials on fire.