Fire Damage in the USA – How Serious Is It?
The very mention of fire damage strikes terror into the hearts of the average, law-abiding, happy family.
Loss of life and property are very real risks associated with fire damage, and fire damage restoration can be a real hassle if you have never experienced fire damage before.
But the worst part is:
In most cases, it is incredibly simple to avoid a house fire. Sometimes, it is a simple matter of investing wisely. But mostly, preventing a house fire is just about using common sense.
In 2016, FEMA estimated 364,300 house fires in the USA .
This is a terrifying statistic by any standards.
So, the question remains:
What can I do to prevent fire damage?
Let us take a closer look some easy ways to prevent fire damage.
Easy Tips to Prevent Fire Damage
In this list, we go over different causes of fire damage and how to nip them in the bud. The simple tricks in this list could save you from spending a large sum of money on reparations or even save your life.
Be Careful with Cooking Fires
Telling you to be careful with cooking fire might be a cliché. But the sad reality is that in 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 166,100 home structure fires that involved cooking equipment per year .
Most of these fires occur due to simple negligence:
- Forgetting to turn the stove off.
- Cooking when intoxicated.
- Using a grill indoors. (No, the garage does not count as outdoors)
The easy fix is to never cook when drinking alcoholic beverages or doing drugs. Also, always remember to turn the stove off and set up your grill outdoors.
Clean Up the Oven
No one ever thinks of oven grease as a fire hazard. Most people think of oven grease as just grease that no one wants to clean up.
True Fact: Oven grease piles up over time and acts as a combustible agent. If you do not clean it up regularly, then it can cause a sudden, uncontrolled kitchen fire. The biggest problem is that there is no shortage of dry rags in most kitchens that can easily keep spreading the fire.
The easy fix is to keep your oven clean. Not only is it hygienic, but it can also prevent any kitchen fires from breaking out. Not to mention, it will keep your family happy!
Beware of Candle Burns
Candle burns are usually small incidents that cause no real damage. Right?
As it turns out – not really!
Between 2011 and 2015, U.S. fire departments collectively responded to roughly 8,700 house fires that were set off by candles per year. These candle fires caused an annual average of 82 deaths and 800 injuries. Additionally, it caused $295 million in direct property damage.
Candles are so nice to look at that people often forget that they are also open flames. Candles at a romantic dinner may set the mood. However, it may cause some serious harm to you as well!
During the short span of four years:
- Candles caused 2% of house fires, 3% of related deaths, 7% of fire injuries, and 4% of the total direct property damage in house fires.
- 37% of candle fires started in bedrooms. These fires caused roughly 36% of the associated deaths and 51% of home fire injuries.
- Falling asleep with a burning candle in the bedroom was the primary factor in 11% percent of the house candle fires and 21% of home fire deaths.
- A daily average of 24 candle fires was reported to U.S. fire departments.
- 59% (More than half) of home candle fires occurred because combustible materials were left too close to the candle.
- Christmas is the peak time of year for house candle fires in the U.S. In December, the average rate of house fires due to candles shot up to 12% because of Christmas decorations. In comparison, the rest of the year contributed to only 4% on average.
Here are some of the things that you can do to prevent candle fires:
- Blow out the candles before you leave the room or go to bed.
- Avoid using candles in the bedroom if possible. Consider using flameless candles instead. They look and smell the same as regular candles but have minimal damage.
- Use battery-operated sources of light whenever you can – especially when you are drinking.
- Keep the candle at least a foot away from any flammable substance.
- Use candle-holders of sturdy build that do not tip over easily.
- Put out the candle before it burns all the way to the container. If nothing else, that may cause smoke damage in your home.
- Be extra careful when lighting the candle – you could accidentally set your hair or clothing on fire as well.
- Keep candles and matchsticks far away from children.
Some mild precautions can go a long way towards building a safer place to live in. Be especially careful around festive seasons. Tipsy elves can do a lot of damage!
Smoking Kills in More Ways than One
Falling asleep while smoking can cause some serious fire damage.
Smoking materials (cigarettes, pipes, and cigars) started roughly 17,200 house fires according to the U.S. fire departments in 2014.
These fires in 2014 alone caused:
- 570 deaths
- 1,140 injuries
- $426 million in direct property damage.
Cigarettes caused 5% of reported house fires, 21% of associated deaths, 10% of associated injuries, and 6% of direct property damage.
Here are some small things you can do to prevent fire damage from cigarette smoking:
- Smoke fire-safe cigarettes or electronic cigarettes.
- Keep your smoking habit outside the bedroom. This is where most fires due to cigarettes originate.
- Do not drink and smoke if there is a chance that you might end up falling asleep midway.
- Do not randomly toss your cigarette butts. Extinguish them in water or sand first. Even so, do not throw the butt in a place that could be flammable such as dry leaves, peat moss, and potted plants.
- Use a sturdy ashtray and place it far away from anything that can burn.
While e-cigarettes are generally considered to be a safer alternative, you still need to be careful with them while charging. Leaving charging e-cigarettes unattended can cause battery explosions.
Space Heaters and Fabrics are a Bad Combination
It is remarkable how often the things that make us feel most comfortable can end up killing us so quickly.
Space heaters are a staple in almost every home in the U.S. – especially during the winter months of December, January, and February.
In 2011-2015, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 54,030 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 480 civilian deaths, 1,470 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.
Just these four years alone accounted for 15% of all reported house fires in the U.S.
Based on the annual averages from 2011-2015:
- Space heaters (portable and stationary) accounted for 43% of home heating fires and 85% of all house heating fire deaths.
- The leading cause of heating fires (28%) was negligence – people forget to clean creosote from heating equipment and chimneys.
- Upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, and bedding can all catch fire from space heaters. Placing clothes far too close to the heater accounted for over 53% of associated deaths.
Here are some precautions that you can take to prevent house fires from happening:
- Keep everything at least three feet away from the heater – especially children!
- Never use an oven to heat your home. It does not work and leads to some severe explosions.
- If you have a fireplace, make sure that it is not an open flame that spits flame and ashes into the room.
- If your heater is portable, remember to always switch it off before you go to bed.
- Get your chimneys cleaned at least once a year by a trained professional.
It makes no sense to use heaters recklessly. Maintain your heaters properly so that you can enjoy the benefits much longer. Also, getting burnt alive is a horrible thing to go through!
Fix Your Electrical Wiring
Faulty electrical wires can leave you shocked – by burning your house down!
A fire does not necessarily need a flame to start. A hot surface in contact with something flammable will do the trick just fine.
From 2011-2015, Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in the ignition of 34,000 reported home structure fire, on average, per year.
These house fires involved equipment such as wiring, lighting, cords, and plugs. Faulty electrical and lighting equipment was the number one cause for direct property damage. It also ranks third among the major causes for home fires.
Here are some ground rules for indoor electrical safety:
- Leave all wiring work to a professional electrician.
- When revamping your house or buying a new one, make sure to comply with all local guidelines.
- Use only one major heat-producing appliance at a time from the same electrical outlet.
- Check appliance wattage before using them. When in doubt, consult an electrician immediately.
- Power extension cords are meant for temporary use only. Do not use extension cords to power refrigerators, heaters, dryers, dishwashers, stoves, or ovens. Get more wall outlets installed by your electrician whenever needed.
- Make sure that the circuits have proper grounding. Check for GFCI (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter) compliance.
- Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) break the circuits whenever there is a major electrical fault and shuts down the flow of electricity immediately. Install AFCIs in your home.
Electrical safety can sometimes sound expensive. But it is a much better alternative than having your house burnt to a crisp. Also, electrical fire prevention is not a one-time process. From time to time, you need to check the condition of your electrical circuits and make all necessary changes.
Cell Phone Charging Faults Can Cause Fires
Do you sleep with a charging cell phone under your pillow?
Stop doing that now!
The heat that is released from the cell phone’s battery gets trapped in the pillow. This causes the battery to explode – while you head is still resting on it!
All that separates you from a severe third-degree burn is a pillow. The worst part is that by the time you realize that something is wrong, it is usually too late to control the outcome.
If you ever sense that your cell phone is heating up too much while charging, immediately unplug the charger and shut down the device. Once it cools down a bit, try recharging it again. If the problem still persists, consult a mobile repair expert at once.
Cheap Adapters and Rechargeable Batteries Often Have Explosive Endings
Stop buying cheap adapters and knock-offs. Cheap adapters usually have a tendency of blowing up.
Simple – they use sub-par circuits that cannot handle a steady flow of electricity. This causes the adapter to overheat and blow up, causing heavy fire damage.
The same principle applies to rechargeable batteries.
What can you do?
- Buy only branded adapters and rechargeable batteries with good online customer reviews.
- Check the wattage of the adapter before using it.
- Check the battery specifications before installing it.
- If possible, buy an adapter or rechargeable battery from the same company as the appliance it serves.
The worst part about cheap adapters is that they can set off an entire chain of electrical fires that can ravage your home completely. The same goes for rechargeable batteries.
Knock-off Toys Could Kill Your Kids
Remember the cute toys you used to play with as a child?
Most of those were probably knock-offs of toys made by stellar toymakers. There is a reason why they seem overpriced – toys made by reputed manufacturers are made from superb quality components.
Even so, toys manufactured by major toymakers go through several stages of strict quality testing.
The knock-offs are often made from electrical or rechargeable parts that could end up exploding and causing some serious fire damage. In some cases, these cheaper toys start leaking lead residue from their batteries that can be highly poisonous.
You are probably thinking:
My kids go through a single toy in a couple of days before they want a new one. How am I supposed to afford so many pricey toys?
Ask yourself this:
Are a couple of extra bucks really worth your child’s safety?
Of course not! If you need some budget-friendly options, the puzzle industry is turning into a real trend. These are really great from children above the age of ten.
For younger children and toddlers, plush soft toys are bestsellers for a reason. The best part? You can buy cheap soft-toys as well! They may not be as attractive as the higher-quality products, but they are definitely pocket-friendly.
3 Easy Fixes to Prevent Fire Damage
Fix Your Fire Alarms Right Away
Fire alarms are the first line of defense against fire and smoke damage. A timely fire alarm can prevent a huge loss in life and property. The good news is that it is actually quite easy to get fire alarms fixed.
It is also a punishable offense in many states to disable fire alarms in the U.S. So, it is just good sense to enable and fix your fire alarm.
Install As Many Fire Extinguishers as You Can
You can never have too many fire extinguishers. Install one for each room if possible and make sure that everyone in the house is properly trained on how to handle a fire extinguisher. It is also a good idea to have different types of fire extinguishers for different types of fire.
Fire extinguishers are for when a fire has already broken out. It could help you douse the fire completely or at least save yourself till the firefighters arrive. It is a good idea to understand fully what kind of fire extinguisher deals with what kind of fire as well.
Having fire drills at home and office is a great way to familiarize yourself and the people around you with proper fire protocols.
Get a Thorough Property Evaluation Done
Before buying a new house, get a thorough evaluation of the property done by an independent third party. The same applies if you are looking to revamp your house. There are local guidelines, community guidelines, State Laws, and Federal Laws that go into fire safety.
Do not buy any house that does not meet the necessary fire safety requirements. If you are renovating your house, hire a qualified electrician to take care of the electrical system.
There are some agencies that offer a complete overhaul for your house. It might be a good idea to hire their services as a package deal. As long as you keep implementing safety protocols and reviewing the condition of your house from time to time, there should be very few issues to deal with.
Did we forget something important? Maybe you have some tip that we did not consider. Let us know in the comments section below.
Do you have some stories about how you escaped or prevented fire damage? Tell us all about it in the comments; we would like to know.
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