10 Dumb Everyday Mistakes That Burn Down Homes

fireIt's fall! Time to come in from raking all those leaves to light a fire in the woodstove and get cuddly on the couch. No wonder it's the same season schools parade out their fire prevention propaganda.

If only they called the adults in for a refresher course.

Every year there are more than a quarter of a million fires in homes in America, and they represent some 86 percent of all fire-related fatalities. Another 77 percent of all fire-related injuries that occur in American happen in a residential fire.

So what are you doing wrong?


1. Making Breakfast in Your Bathrobe. They do it in the movies, but cooking in loose fitting clothing is like asking to catch on fire. Short sleeves and a tight fit are a must if you're working over a hot stove. Which means his shirt is off-limits too.

2. Using Gasoline in a Kerosene Heater. So you ran out of kerosene? Go buy more. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been warning against mixing these two for almost 30 years (their first warning went out in 1982), but people still do this, and the results are devastating.

3. Cigarette Lighters (and Matches) Are Left in Kids' Reach. The CPSC estimates 200 of the fire fatalities in America every year are caused by cigarette lighters. A full two-thirds of those fires were started by a child.

4. Wiring Things Ourselves. Electricians cost a lot of money, but unless you know what you're doing, it's worth paying even the guy who doubles his prices. According to FireSafety.gov, home electrical problems account for 67,800 fires, 485 deaths, and $868 million in property losses. Home electrical wiring causes twice as many fires as electrical appliances. Stop being a cheapskate.

5. Overloading the Outlets. It doesn't matter how many appliances you think you need on your kitchen counter, the outlet can only give so much before it starts getting mad (sound familiar?). Two slots in an outlet means two cords. Period.

6. Buying Long Curtains. They're pretty, but long curtains that get near your heating system are a classic no-no. They should remain 3 feet from the closest heat source.

7. Not Cleaning the Chimney. The first fire of the season is a reason to get excited. But it shouldn't be "OMG, call the fire department!" kind of exciting. Creosote will naturally build up in your chimney, so call in a professional to clean it. Also, check to ensure the damper is open before you start your first fire, and never burn trash or plastic in your fireplace.

8. Not Having the Furnace Serviced. Not every home has a fireplace, but a traditional furnace requires cleaning as well. Once a year by a professional should keep you safe. Skipping it could cost you your home.

9. Storing Too Many Newspapers. Waiting too long to recycle your newspapers could be more than a storage issue. Newspapers saved in a damp, warm place can ignite spontaneously. And then there's plenty for the fire to eat through and really get going.

10. Burning Leaves by the House. It's illegal in many areas, but every year some genius thinks the best way to get rid of all those pesky piles of leaves is to light a fire. And then the wind changes. One word: compost.

Do you make any of these mistakes?


Image via Edward Vielmetti/Flickr

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