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25 hidden fire hazards at home

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25 hidden fire hazards at home

If you have never experienced a house fire, you may be shocked to learn the sheer
volume of fires that are sparked each year by everyday occurrences like cooking or dust
collection. While there are some clear house fire risks that you’re likely familiar with,
others are less obvious. There are potential fire hazards in virtually every room in your
home, from the basement to your bedroom.
Cooking Unsurprisingly, cooking is the number one cause of house fires.
unattended, cooking can pose a serious risk, as cooking incidents cause almost half of
reported house fires. 2 When grease, fats and other oils get too hot, they can become a
dangerous fire risk in your kitchen. Never leave the stovetop or cooking appliance (ie. air
fryer or rice cooker) or microwave/oven unattended under any circumstances. 
2. Cluttered kitchens Similar to cooking hazards, a cluttered kitchen can also
cause house fires. With crowded countertops, it’s easy for stray dish towels and other
flammable objects to come into contact with heat sources, like a stovetop or burning
candle. All too often, flames from cooking reach other flammable materials, which can
quickly create a larger fire.  For this reason, make sure you’re operating with a clear
countertop before launching into Sunday/Holiday dinner prep.
3. Dirty stove or oven Grease buildup and charred remains of past meals can
create a film on the oven interior. Over time, this can lead to disastrous cooking
conditions, and even a small kitchen fire can escalate quickly.  Cooking with a dirty oven
continuously can create carbon fumes, which can be a fire danger if not dealt with
properly. Once you’re done cooking and your oven has completely cooled, give it a firm
scrub to fend off lingering grease.
4. Grilling Grills can serve as a fire hazard. Gas leaks and flammable liquids are
common causes of grill-related fires. Additionally, grilling tends to be more popular
during summer months, which also coincides with annual periods of drought. When
nearby grass and brush are dry in the summer, it doesn’t take much more than a rogue
ember to ignite a fire.  Proceed with caution and exercise safe grilling practices. While
the use of propane is allowed during burn bans, you should be extra careful during these
periods, and ensure to properly store any heating fuels. 
5. Fire pits A fire pit should be at least 10 feet from your house and anything else
flammable. You should also avoid placing the fire pit on grassy surfaces, wood decks or
any sort of enclosed porch. If you’re enjoying a wood fire, be sure to use a metal screen
to keep logs from rolling off.

6. Fireplaces When not properly maintained, fireplaces can be another fire hazard
in the home. The wood you choose for your fire plays a large role in fireplace safety. Dry
and well-aged wood produces less smoke and burns more evenly than wet wood. More
smoke causes more soot, and soot buildup restricts the wood’s oxygen, posing a
definite fire risk. Double-check that the flue is open before lighting the fire, Clean out
ashes from previous fires
7. Candles Can be a significant fire hazard if not handled with care. According to the
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), candles are the cause of 20 house fires
per day, with numbers peaking during December and January.
8. Space heaters Space heaters and other heating equipment are common for
homeowners in colder areas looking to winterize their house. However, according to the
NFPA, space heaters account for four out of five deaths related to home heating
equipment. 5
9. Faulty smoke/CO detectors Smoke is the earliest sign that something has
overheated or could quickly ignite. Having just a few spare minutes or even seconds can
help prevent serious fires, so be sure that all smoke detectors are working properly. 
10. Lint screens and dryers Dryers are responsible for roughly 90% of
appliance fires, but can easily be prevented. 8  When doing laundry, you should clean out
your lint traps after every use.  While forgetting one time won’t necessarily lead to a fire,
it’s beneficial to get into the habit of cleaning your lint screen after every load. 

11. Damaged extension cords Cracked or frayed extension cords or missing
ground plugs are another common cause of fires in the home. Running cords under
rugs or through doorways are common causes of damage and should be avoided.
Another best practice to prevent possible fires is unplugging cords when they’re not in
12. Overloaded electrical outlets Overloading electrical outlets can spark a
fire in your home.  General rule of thumb, you shouldn’t plug more than two appliances
into one outlet.
13. Outdated wiring Tripping circuit breakers and smoke can be evidence that
you’ve got outdated wiring in your home. Telltale signs of bad or old wiring include
sparking and dimming lights. 

14. Laptops Laptops need proper ventilation to avoid overheating. You should
never place a laptop on upholstery or bedding, as this will insulate the fan.  While rare,
laptop battery fires happen and are devastating when they do. Unlike cell phones, laptop
batteries have multiple cells. As a result, when one gets damaged from heat, it can
create a chain reaction that impacts the other battery cells.
15. Lampshades Certain lamp materials can withstand heat better than others
and should be carefully considered, especially if you plan on making your own
16. Light fixtures Light bulbs can also be fire hazards if not handled properly. You
should only use bulbs with wattage equal to or less than what the manufacturer
recommends. The label on the lamp will tell you what wattage bulb you should buy. 
17. Christmas trees While festive, the combination of heat from Christmas lights
and dry branches can lead to home fires. Using LED lights on your tree is your best bet
for preventing possible fires, as LED lights give off significantly less heat than
incandescent ones. 
18. Generators When not handled properly, generators can be another source of
serious house fires. Portable gas generators need to be kept outside and away from
windows. Not only can generators be a carbon monoxide risk, but they can also
overheat. Since gas generators use flammable propane, external hazards like lit
cigarettes or sparks from a fire pit can cause generators to catch fire. 
19. Hot water heaters & Furnaces Gas furnaces/water heaters and electric
heaters can both pose risks for house fires, but for different reasons. With gas heaters,
gas or propane leaks most commonly cause house fires, whereas with electric heaters,
overheating is the primary concern. 
20. Crowded radiators Although it may be tempting, especially in an apartment
where you may not have in-unit dryer access, placing anything on a radiator is never a
good idea, including damp clothing or towels.  On the off chance that your radiator
malfunctions, it’s essential that the area is free of any flammable objects to ensure the
fire doesn’t spread. 
21. Newspaper piled in damp, warm places Another surprising addition to
this list is newspapers piled in damp, warm places, as these can spontaneously
combust — even without a heat source.  A large enough newspaper stack is able to
generate enough heat to start a fire. So if you’re recycling large heaps of newspaper,
stack them in a cooler atmosphere away from anything flammable. 

22. Smoking cigarettes Furniture or items in trash cans can catch fire when you
smoke and dispose of cigarettes inside. As a result, you should always smoke
cigarettes outside and ensure you’re disposing of cigarette butts in a stable ashtray.  
23. Collected dust Keeping a clean house can offer more than health and allergen
benefits — it can also save you from a house fire. With enough warmth, dust that
collects near electrical outlets or heaters can ignite and spread throughout the home. 
The best way to prevent dust fires is to clean regularly. Not only will this benefit your
immune system, but it will eliminate the risk of a dust fire.  
24. Glassware on a windowsill This may be one of the most surprising hazards
to make the list, but if your window attracts abundant natural light, this could very well
put your home at risk.  When coupled with sun rays, glass creates a magnifying effect,
which can spark a fire, particularly when cast upon textiles and fabrics such as
carpeting, curtains or upholstery. Especially during the warmer months, be wary of your
glassware placement and ensure it’s not exposed to direct sunlight.
25. 9-volt batteries In 9-volt batteries, the positive and negative posts are both
positioned on the top, making them a potential fire risk if the ends come in contact with
metal.  When loose in junk drawers, the tips of 9-volt batteries can easily spark a fire
with other metal items — even something as small as a paper clip. Cover the ends with
tape to ensure they can’t come into contact with other metal items.

Types of fires
A fire’s class denotes how quickly it burns, how dangerous it is and how difficult it is to
put out. Knowing the different classes of fires can help you understand the best way to
extinguish them in the event you experience one in your home. 
Fire extinguishers are also specific to certain classes of fires, and using the wrong one
can sometimes even intensify flames. In the section below, lists each class of fire and
the type of extinguisher necessary for putting it out.

1. “Ordinary” fires (Class A) 
Class A fires, or “ordinary” fires, describe the least threatening type of blaze. These
generally occur when a combustible material like wood, plastic or fabric catches a
spark. While these fires aren’t necessarily too dangerous on their own, they have the
potential to spread if not handled quickly.  How to extinguish: Class A fires can be
extinguished by water or a foam extinguisher. Since these are typically small fires, other
substances are generally not needed to extinguish the flame. 10
2. Liquid and gas fires (Class B) 
Oftentimes starting as a result of a grilling incident, Class B fires involve flammable
liquids or gasses, like propane or kerosene. These liquids typically have a high carbon
content, which makes them combustible. 11    How to extinguish: While water can easily
extinguish a Class A fire, it should be avoided at all costs when extinguishing a Class B
fire. Class B fires are extinguished by smothering the flame, thus removing oxygen from
it. This can be done through an aqueous film-forming extinguisher or film-forming fluor
protein extinguisher. 12
3. Electrical fires (Class C) 
Class C fires start as the result of electricity and are most common in places with heavy
electrical usage, like data centers. In settings like this, faulty wiring and overloaded
outlets are generally the cause of electrical fires. Old homes or buildings using outdated
wiring or old space heaters may also be susceptible to electrical fires. 
How to extinguish: In the event of an electrical fire, it’s essential to use a nonconductive
material to extinguish the flame, like a specific Class C fire extinguisher. Class C fire
extinguishers employ agents that separate fuel, heat and fire, which controls the
flames. 13
4. Metallic fires (Class D)
Most common in laboratories, metallic fires are rarer than the other classes and include
metallic flammable materials, like titanium and magnesium. 
How to extinguish: You’ll need a powder fire extinguisher to put out a metallic fire. Class
D fire extinguishers cover the fire in a non-reactive powder material, eventually calming
the flames. 14  You shouldn’t use anything reactive when dealing with a metallic fire, so
water should be avoided in these cases. 

5. Grease fires (Class K) 
While Class B fires are most common on the grill, Class K fires happen most frequently
in the kitchen, as they include grease fires and fires from cooking oils and animal fats.
Class K fires tend to be dangerous because they’re difficult to manage and can spread
How to extinguish: Like metallic fires, water is likely to make the blaze worse. Class K
fire extinguishers use cooling agents to smother the fire and cool down the appliance. 15
For the home, the NFPA recommends a multi-purpose fire extinguisher. These
extinguishers are easy to handle and can combat both small and large fires. Using
conductive and non-reactive materials, they can also fight Class A fires without
intensifying other reactive fire types.

Contact Servicemaster of Burlington

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