Every year, thousands of people die or are injured as a result of house fires in the United States. Fortunately, most of these fires can be prevented with the proper precautions.
Here are five common causes of house fires and how to avoid them:
1. Cooking—Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short time, turn off the stove. Ensure all cookware and appliances are free of grease buildup before cooking. Do not cook if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol or have taken medication that makes you drowsy.
2. Smoking—If you smoke, do it outside. Most home fires caused by smoking start inside the structure. Make sure smoking materials (e.g., cigarettes, cigars and ashes) are completely extinguished before you discard them. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.
3. Portable space heaters—Keep combustible objects at least 3 feet away from portable heating devices. Only buy heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Check to ensure the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism and will turn off automatically if the heater falls over.
4. Faulty wiring—Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture. Purchase electrical products evaluated by UL or another nationally recognized laboratory. Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
5. Fireplaces and wood stoves—Inspect and clean woodstove pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions. Never burn trash, paper or green wood. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.
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