With summer in Southern California comes the media’s latest coverage of this year’s massive wildfire. In spite of the supposed prevalence of wildfires, the source that ultimately threatens your home might not come from the dry sagebrush in the hills. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, wildfires aren’t even among the top 3 sources of house fire damage. To single out the most likely sources of house fire damage, you must look inward and assess the threats that are lurking within your own walls. These are the NFPA’s most common house fire sources.
The #3 spot belongs to the category of “intentional” fires, or arson. Such fires are usually done with either destructive intent or the intent to collect on insurance money. Just in the days preceding this article, two separate major arson incidents occurred in the Los Angeles area: a church was set on fire in Echo Park and a major fire along a North Hollywood freeway. It’s far more frequent than we might realizing, earning its spot on the NFPA’s list.
Heaters, fireplaces, electric blankets, and other such items keep us warm in the winter, but that same source of heat can also set flammable objects aflame. It’s important to minimize contact of loose clothing, rugs, and other objects with heat sources in the house. The ease at which such loose items can catch fire on our sources of warmth puts Heating Equipment at the NFPA’s #2 spot.
Coming in at the #1 spot is cooking equipment. Nearly half of all household fires originate from the kitchen and appliances in the kitchen, which makes sense given how prevalent heat sources are inthere: stoves, ovens, even toasters. Kitchen based fires are also the leading cause of fire-based injuries.
Just like with heat sources, it’s important to make sure that loose objects such as kitchen towels or curtains aren’t too close to stovetops, toasters, and other heat sources. Additionally, minimize the amount of time you leave operating heat sources unattended. If you must leave to do something else while something cooks, ensure that the heat source is on an automatic shutoff timer to prevent overcooking of food and additional fire risk.
While wildfires are often considered the most newsworthy to Southern Californians, the sources they should be concerned the most about are inside their own homes. Now that you have this knowledge, however, you can prepare yourself and your household by looking around your house for areas of risk. There isn’t much you can do about arson besides having a fire extinguisher handy, but the #2 and #1 causes of household fires are easily preventable by being cautious with how we use our heating and cooking equipment.