Common causes of house fires

According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) there are 360,000 home structure fires per year. That’s almost a thousand house fires per day!

It amounts to six to eight billion dollars in damage every year, as well. And many house fires are preventable. You’re probably already being cautious about several things on this list, but it never hurts to have a reminder with something this serious.

Here are eight common causes of house fires from the NFPA, and ways to prevent them.

Live Christmas trees

This still causes 230 fires per year. If you have a live Christmas tree, keep it watered and get rid of it when you need to! Turning off the lights when you go to bed at night will also help. It’s a good idea to throw out any old Christmas lights you use on the tree and replace them with LED lights—they produce little to no heat so they’re a safer choice.

Children playing with fire.

This creates fires in 7,100 homes per year. These fires are overwhelmingly caused by males (83%). To prevent this, make sure you teach proper fire safety very early. Keep matches, lighters, and flammables out of kids’ reach.


Over 10,000 home fires per year are started because of a candle! Many of these fires started in the bedroom. Make sure to extinguish candles if you’re leaving the room or going to bed, and keep them away from flammable objects.


Even with smoking in decline, this still caused 17,000 deaths in the most recent year recorded. To prevent this, smoke outside and have a safe receptacle for your butts.

Washer and dryer

There are 17,000 deaths per year caused by washer and dryer malfunction. Usually it’s the dryer. Sometimes it’s from mechanical malfunction but it’s more often caused by a lack of ventilation. Be sure to clean your lint screen at least every couple of loads, and make sure your dryer is vented outside the home. It’s also a good idea to clean out the dryer ventilation before it gets clogged.


Lightning causes 22,000 home fires per year. Unfortunately, this cause isn’t very preventable. Normal surge protection for homes simply isn’t meant to handle the voltage of a lightning strike. To avoid damage to yourself and your things, though, avoid taking a bath or shower during a lightning storm and unplug your major electronics.

Electrical and lighting

This causes 47,000 fires per year, according to NFPA’s most recent data. Overheated lights, extension cord overuse, mechanical malfunction, and faulty wiring all contribute to this significant number.

There are steps you can take to prevent this, though. Always use licensed electricians—we can’t stress it enough! Use inside extension cords inside and outside extension cords outside, and don’t try anything tricky to add more plugs to a cord. It will create issues for you. Avoid leaving lights on for extended periods of time unattended, and when you’re replacing light bulbs, consider replacing them with LED lights that remain cool.


This is still the number one cause of house fires. Cooking creates fires in 156,000 homes per year, often when people have left cooking on their range or stove unattended.

To prevent this, certainly don’t leave cooking unattended, but there are also some things you can do if a fire has started in your house. If it’s a fire in the oven, don’t open it! If there’s no oxygen, the fire will burn itself out. For grease fires, remember that water will only make it worse.

If you want to read more, check out NFPA’s website.

One big overarching tip based on these common causes of home fires: keep a fire extinguisher handy! They’re inexpensive and very important to have readily available in case of emergency.

Were any of these tips new to you? Do you have any suggestions for other homeowners to prevent home fires?

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