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Reduce the Risk of House Fire

"A dryer vent that was clogged with lint sparked into flames after smoldering overnight."

"A faulty furnace is suspected in a fire that gutted the newly built home."

"Using a charcoal grill on a wooden deck caused the fire."

"The fire apparently started when the couple fell asleep with a candle burning."

"A defective microwave ignited into flames early yesterday morning, damaging the kitchen and adjacent apartment."

Fire departments respond to more than 1.5 million fires in the United States each year. A house fire could happen to anyone – even you. But house fires are not inevitable. You can reduce your risk.

Fire Prevention Tips

  • Never leave food on a stove unattended. Keep cooking areas free of flammable objects, such as potholders and towels. Avoid wearing clothes with long, loose-fitting sleeves when cooking. Turn all handles inward to prevent accidental spills.

  • Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths. Do not smoke in bed. Never leave burning cigarettes unattended. Do not empty smoldering ashes in a trashcan. Keep ashtrays away from upholstered furniture and curtains.

  • Alcohol use contributes to an estimated 40 percent of residential fire deaths. If you drink, limit yourself to one drink for women, two drinks for men.

  • Keep furniture, magazines, newspapers, clothes, pillows, and other flammable materials away from water heaters, radiators, space heaters, candles, oil lamps, fireplaces, and wood stoves.

  • Never put anything – clothes, a blanket, or paper streamers, for example – over a lamp.

  • Avoid plugging several appliance cords into the same electrical socket.

  • Do not use any appliance that doesn't work properly. Unplug it immediately and either have it repaired or dispose of it properly.

  • Schedule regular maintenance on furnaces, refrigerators, and other large appliances.

  • If an outlet sparks or does not work, unplug all the cords from it. Have it and all necessary wiring repaired by a licensed electrician.

  • Periodically inspect all appliance cords. When the wires inside cords become pinched (such as when you coil the cord around a hair drier or a power tool), the cords can eventually overheat and cause a fire.

  • Replace old or frayed electrical wires and appliance cords, and keep them on top of rugs, not beneath them.

  • Keep dryer vents free of lint.

  • Store all flammable liquids – such as gasoline, lighter fluid, or furniture stripper – in a building separate from your home.

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every sleeping area.

  • Install fire sprinklers in your home. They can be effective fire suppressant devices. Fire sprinklers can be retrofitted to existing homes or installed during the construction of new housing.

  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.

Finally, be sure you're not teaching your children bad habits. Don't smoke in bed. Don't disconnect smoke alarm batteries. And don't engage in other unsafe behaviors.


1. Fire deaths and injuries: Fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2. Safety in the home. National Fire Protection Association.

Written by:: Paula Wart
Reviewed:: 11/26/2013

This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis of specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt professional medical attention if you have a particular concern about your health or specific symptoms. Wellsource, Inc. is not liable for any health consequences resulting from your use of this site.