House Fires

House Fires

Photograph by Jeff Werner

Did you know that if a fire starts in your home, you may have just two minutes to escape?

There are more than 350,000 house fires in the United States every year. There are 3,500 deaths and 15,000 serious injuries from house fires. Unattended cooking, space heaters, cigarettes, or candles cause most house fires.

Be prepared:

  • Install and check smoke alarm batteries regularly.
  • Install fire extinguishers and check expiration dates. Install the fire extinguishers in areas that are close to fire hazards, like next to a stove.
  • Practice evacuation routes and have alternative paths.
  • Have ways to escape from higher floors. For example, rooms on the second floor keep a rope in the closet to use to escape safely.
  • Establish a designated meeting point so that all escaping members can be accounted for immediately.

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What to do in a fire:

  • Attempt to extinguish immediately. You can use a hose or attempt to smother it with a blanket or coat. If the fire is beyond control, evacuate immediately.
  • Use a previously established code word to alert all family members.
  • Close doors when leaving rooms, this will slow down the spread of fire.
  • Flames move upward and heat and smoke rise, so stay low and as close to the floor as possible.
  • If flames while on an upper floor block evacuation, tie bed sheets together and fasten to a firm object such as a bed leg.
  • Get away from the burning structure and head toward the pre-established regrouping area.

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When learning facts about fire, it’s important to understand the fire triangle. The triangle represents the three components that fires need to exist: heat, oxygen and fuel. If one of these components is missing, a fire can’t ignite.

Heat can be generated by cigarettes or an in home heater.

Fuel can be anything combustible, such as wood, paper, clothing, furniture, gases or chemicals.

Once a fire starts, if any of the three components is removed, the fire is extinguished.

Water is used to cool a fire and take away the heat source. Oxygen can be removed by smothering a fire with dirt, sand or a blanket. Fuel can be removed by moving combustible materials away from the fire or by simply waiting until the fire consumes the material and goes out of its own accord.

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Facts about fire deaths: Every year more than 3,800 people die fire related deaths in the U.S. Approximately 18,300 people are injured every year in fires. Practicing proper fire safety and having fire alarms could have prevented most of these fires! 

One of the more interesting facts about fire is that most house fires start in the kitchen. Cooking is the leading cause of home fire injuries. Cooking fires often start from overheated grease and unattended cooking. Electric stoves are involved in more fires than gas ones.

Another fact about fire is that smoking is the primary cause of death by fire in the U.S. The second cause of fire deaths is heating equipment.

 Arson is the third most common cause of home fires. Arson in commercially operated buildings is the major reason for fire deaths and injuries in those types of properties. 

Facts about fire show that more people die from smoke inhalation than flames. Fire can suck all of the oxygen from a room and fill it with poisonous smoke and gases before flames even reach a room. Many times people die from lack of oxygen before the fire reaches their room. 

Firefighters in the U.S. were called out on 362,500 house fires in 2009, which caused 12,650 injuries, 2,565 fatalities and $7.6 billion in property damage. 

Another of the interesting facts about fire is that candles caused approximately 12,900 home fires and 140 home fire deaths between 2005 and 2009.They were also responsible for 1,040 injuries and $471 million in property damage.

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Facts about fire support the importance of having working smoke alarms in your house. Approximately two-thirds of all fire deaths happen in homes where there’s no working fire alarm. Your chance of dying in a home fire is cut in half if you have a working smoke alarm.

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Courtley, C. (2012). SEAL survival guide: A Navy SEAL’s secrets to surviving any disaster. New York: Gallery Books.

Home Fire Safety. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2014.

9 facts about fire. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2014.

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