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Common Causes of House Fires and How to Prevent Them

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Updated May 21st, 2024

House fires are all too common, with an estimated 382,500 residential structure fires in 2022 alone. By understanding the fire hazards in your home and taking basic precautions, you can help stop devastating fires before they happen.

Top Causes of House Fires

Cooking, heating, electrical faults, smoking, and candles are some of the top causes of house fires. Let’s take a deeper look into each one of these, as well as safety tips.


Cooking consistently ranks as the top cause of house fires, despite advancements in electric and gas ranges, as well as other appliances. Unsurprisingly, the number of reported cooking fires peaks during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. For fire prevention in the kitchen, follow these tips:
  • Never leave your stove, oven, or other cooking appliances unattended while cooking.
  • Wipe down your stove and oven as built-up food splatter or grease can ignite when the oven or stove is turned on.
  • Clean up clutter, such as over mitts, towels, and utensils, from your cooking area.
  • Have a fire extinguisher readily available and understand how to use it.
  • Keep children and pets away from the kitchen while cooking.


Similar to cooking fires, heating equipment fires follow a seasonal pattern, with more occurring in the winter months than any other time of the year. Heating fire hazards in the home include stationary and portable space heaters, as well as fireplaces and central heating systems. Here are some preventative steps you can take:
  • Keep at least three feet between heating equipment and furniture, curtains, and bedding.
  • Only use heaters that turn off automatically when overheated or tipped
  • Have furnaces and chimneys professionally cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Never use flammable liquids to start a fire in a fireplace.
  • Allow the ashes in your fireplace to cool completely before throwing them out and use a metal bucket for disposal.

Electrical Malfunctions

According to the National Fire Protection Association, an electrical fire breaks out every 10 minutes. Typically, older homes are more at risk, but an electrical malfunction can occur in any home. Here are some ways to help reduce your risk:

  • Detect invisible dangers with smart sensor devices like Ting.
  • Only use a qualified electrician to perform work.
  • Watch out for signs of faulty wiring, such as blown fuses, discoloration around outlets, flickering lights, and a burning odor.
  • Avoid using any appliance cords or extension cords that are frayed or otherwise damaged.
  • Refrain from pinching or covering electrical cords with items like rugs.
  • Do not overload your circuits and use surge protectors to help protect your valuable electronic devices.


While the number of people who smoke in the U.S. has declined in recent decades, smoking is still a top contributor to house fires. Many things in your home can catch on fire if they touch something hot like a cigarette or ashes, so if you or someone in your home smokes, remember to:

  • Only smoke outside.
  • Never smoke in bed or around medical oxygen.
  • Put cigarettes and cigars all the way out before disposing of them.
  • Do not smoke when you are tired or have taken medicine that causes drowsiness.


As a source of open flame, candles need to be handled with caution. To ensure safe usage of candles in your home, follow these guidelines:

  • Never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • Place candles on a solid, level surface to avoid tip overs.
  • Leave ample space between the candle and any flammable or combustible items.
  • Keep wicks trimmed to within one-quarter inch from the top of the candle.
  • Do not allow candles to burn down to the bottom of their container.
  • Keep children and pets away from candles.

How to Prevent House Fires

In addition to the tips outlined above, there are some general precautions you should take to help keep your home and loved ones safe.

Place Smoke Detectors Throughout Your Home

  • Install a smoke detector on each level of your home and in each bedroom.
  • Ensure your smoke detectors are not too close to windows, vents, or ceiling fans that can blow smoke away from the detector.
  • Regularly test your smoke detectors.
  • Replace the batteries once a year.

Equip Your Home with Fire Extinguishers

  • Place several fire extinguishers throughout your home in accessible locations.
  • Select multi-purpose Class ABC extinguishers that are large enough to put out a small fire while remaining easy to handle.
  • Make sure that family members know where all fire extinguishers are located and how to use them.

Monitor Your Home’s Electrical Network

Smart sensors like Ting make it easy to help monitor your home for electrical hazards. These sensors can identify potential electrical fire hazards and notify you when there’s an issue. Westfield is offering Ting in limited quantities to eligible homeowner policyholders.

Safeguard Your Home with Homeowner's Insurance

Even a small house fire that is extinguished quickly can cause thousands of dollars of damage. While the tips in this blog can help you prevent fires, homeowners insurance is a great way to help financially protect your home and family.

Contact a local Westfield agent to start the quote process today! And if you’re already have a Westfield homeowners policy, you can enroll in Ting via MyWestfield.