11 Common Causes of House Fires
Fire is one of the most fearsome and deadly calamities that can strike a home. According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 365,500 home fires occurred in America in 2015, causing 2,650 civilian deaths and more than $7 billion in property damages.
Here are 11 common causes of house fires.
Most kitchens contain several potential fire hazards, including appliances with faulty or frayed wiring, unattended pots and pans, and too-hot cooking oil to name just a few. According to the National fire protection Association, cooking equipment was the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries between 2010 and 2014, so it's worth paying special attention to this high-risk space. Always stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen—even for a brief period of time—turn off the stove. Wear short, close-fitting, or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking, and don't prepare food if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy. Finally, always keep children away from active cooking areas.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths in America. Most smoking-related fires start inside the home, often originating from upholstered furniture, bedding, or mattresses. Always smoke outside, thoroughly extinguishing cigarettes in an ashtray when finished. Soak cigarette butts in water before tossing them never just toss a butt into a trash can! Also, smoking should never be allowed in any home where medical oxygen is in use, because of its explosive properties.
Fireplace and Wood Stoves
Fireplaces and wood stoves are another leading cause of home fires. To prevent an accident, install a spark screen or glass door in front of the firebox to protect the surrounding area from stray sparks and rolled logs. Check chimneys annually to ensure that creosote hasn't built up, and never leave a fire unattended. Periodically move cooled ashes to a covered metal container.
Because frayed or faulty wires can trigger a fire, it’s important to follow safe practices with your appliance cords. Replace all worn or damaged cords right away, never overload extension cords or wall sockets, and don’t position cords under furniture or rugs. Also, don’t try forcing a three-slot plug to fit into a two-slot outlet. If a light switch or electrical outlet is hot to the touch or discolored, shut off the power to the switch or socket and replace it.
Not surprisingly, December, January, and February are the peak months for fires caused by home heating equipment. The main culprit? Portable space heaters, which cause more fires annually than central heating. Use space heaters only in well-ventilated spaces, and keep them at least three feet away from furniture, fabrics, draperies, and other combustible objects. Be sure that heaters have a properly working thermostat control, and look for models with an automatic shut-off feature. Although central heating isn't as big a contributor to home fires, it's still smart to have your system checked and maintained on an annual basis to ensure proper operation.Not surprisingly, December, January, and February are the peak months for fires caused by home heating equipment. The main culprit? Portable space heaters, which cause more fires annually than central heating. Use space heaters only in well-ventilated spaces, and keep them at least three feet away from furniture, fabrics, draperies, and other combustible objects. Be sure that heaters have a properly working thermostat control, and look for models with an automatic shut-off feature. Although central heating isn't as big a contributor to home fires, it's still smart to have your system checked and maintained on an annual basis to ensure proper operation.
Candles bring ambiance and fragrance to your home, but they’re also a major source of house fires. Prevent catastrophe by monitoring lit candles and blowing out the flame whenever you leave the immediate area. Never position a lit candle near flammable items like bed sheets and books, which may become engulfed in flame if they come in contact with the tiny fire. As a safer alternative, homeowners can purchase flame-less, battery-powered candles with LED's.
Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, kerosene, and propane, should be safely stored outside in their original containers. When packing away lawn equipment for the season, empty the gasoline tank and properly dispose of the fuel. Kerosene and propane heaters, which have a constant open flame, should be kept in an isolated, well-ventilated area and used only with the proper type of fuel. Never overfill a heater, and clean up any spills right away.
Older homes often have inadequate electrical wiring, making them prone to electrical fires. Your home's wiring may be faulty if you're constantly blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers, your lights dim when using an appliance, or you have to disconnect one appliance to get another to function. If these symptoms sound familiar, hire a licensed electrician to inspect your home and make any necessary repairs.
Grills and Fire Pits
Nothing beats a backyard barbecue, but if you don't follow the proper safety protocols, you may find yourself facing a backyard fire instead. When cooking outside, position your grill or fire pit several feet from your house, making sure that it's safely away from trees, deck railings, and other structures. Also, routinely clean the grill with soapy water, investigate signs of rust and corrosion, and check the gas connections. Always have a fire extinguisher nearby whenever you're dealing with open flames outdoors.
Lamps and Lighting
Many electrical fires stem from poorly installed light fixtures and lamps. Make sure that hanging lights are insulated from wood paneling or ceiling joists and that portable lamps are positioned on a sturdy base that can't easily be knocked over. Use bulbs with the correct wattage (never over the maximum limit), and opt for well-fitting lampshades. For added safety, consider switching to LED bulbs, which produce less heat than incandescent or halogen varieties.
Give a curious child a match and disaster is bound to happen. To stop children from playing with flame and unintentionally starting a fire, lock away matches and lighters. Teach kids that fire isn’t a toy, and never leave any young person unattended with stoves, candles, fireplaces, or other flame-producing objects.
Mold’s Favorite Hiding Spots
Mold can grow almost anywhere, and there are lots of places in your home that it can thrive. Although mold most commonly develops in the bathroom and basement, it can also hide in many unexpected areas. Since mold can cause various health effects, keeping your house mold-free is essential to a healthy home environment. Check out these areas that could be harboring mold in your house.
Refrigerator Drip Pans
The drip pan under your fridge collects moisture, dirt, and bacteria, making it a perfect place for mold to grow. To clean your drip pan, spray a mixture of 1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide in 1 cup water over the pan. Then, use a rag soaked in vinegar to wipe the pan. To prevent mold from growing in the drip pan, keep it clean and wipe off the moisture frequently.
Washing Machines Gaskets
If you have a front-loading washing machine, chances are that there is mold in the machine’s door gasket. The moisture and lint in the gasket provide a perfect habitat for mold. Prevent mold in the washing machine gasket by wiping moisture off the gasket after every wash. Leaving the door open after each wash twill help allow moisture to evaporate.
Air Conditioning Units
AC units collect dust, pollen, and moisture from the air, allowing mold to grow on the drain pans, coils, and ducts. To get rid of the mold in your AC unit, you may need to hire a professional restoration company. They can detect and remove mold from the unit using specialized equipment and techniques.
Window Sashes and Seals
Windows are common areas where condensation forms and dirt gathers. This combination results in mold growth if you don’t remove the moisture and keep surfaces clean. Scrub the mold off with a toothbrush and a mixture of half vinegar, half water. To prevent condensation in the first place, you may have to repair the seals and/or replace the sashes.
Mold can even grow on dishes that have been stacked wet and haven’t been used for several days. Wipe out the mold from dishes by running them through a hot cycle in your dishwasher. Then, dry the dishes completely using a towel. Make sure to wipe cabinets with a cloth soaked in vinegar prior to storing the dishes.
Rainwater and snow may enter the chimney if its caps are rusted or the flashing is damaged. Mold can grow inside chimneys due to the water, dirt, and other organic debris that collects in brick crevices. Before removing the mold, fix or replace the caps and flashing. To remove mold from a chimney, it’s best to hire a chimney sweep that can give it a thorough cleaning. Hiring a chimney sweep once a year is essential to preventing mold in your chimney.
How to Prevent Duct Contamination
Whether or not you decide to have the air ducts in your home cleaned, committing to a good preventive maintenance program is essential to minimize duct contamination.
To prevent dirt from entering the system: Use the highest efficiency air filter recommended by the manufacturer of your heating and cooling system.
Change filters regularly. If your filters become clogged, change them more frequently.
Be sure you do not have any missing filters and that air cannot bypass filters through gaps around the filter holder.
When having your heating and cooling system maintained or checked for other reasons, be sure to ask the service provider to clean cooling coils and drain pans.
During construction or renovation work that produces dust in your home, seal off supply and return registers and do not operate the heating and cooling system until after cleaning up the dust.
Remove dust and vacuum your home regularly. (Use a high efficiency vacuum (HEPA) cleaner or the highest efficiency filter bags your vacuum cleaner can take. Vacuuming can increase the amount of dust in the air during and after vacuuming as well as in your ducts).
If your heating system includes in-duct humidification equipment, be sure to operate and maintain the humidifier strictly as recommended by the manufacturer.
Drywall and Water
It is always an unfortunate circumstance when you are faced with water damage in your home. In many situations, you have no idea how it happened or where the water is even coming from. More often than not the water that comes pouring through your rooms, ruining the carpet or wood floors. And just as common seeping beneath the walls, getting into the interior drywall.
When this happens you may ask yourself, “Does water damaged drywall need to be replaced?” But more often than not, the water damaged drywall is going to have to be replaced. Wet drywall will lose its structural integrity and if left alone for long enough will develop mold spores, between the insulation and the drywall. It’s easy to think it’s not a problem because out of sight out of mind, but it does need to be handled. Cleaning the flood water in your home that caused the flood damage of the drywall, then having to replace the drywall can be an arduous task to do on your own. But with a little effort and a little know-how, yours can be a successful job.
Saving Your Contents From Fire Damage
Home fires are extremely dangerous both before and after the flames are put out. If items are not properly cleaned, smoke odors, soot, and ash never leave.
Attempting to scrub and remove soot only spreads stains deeper into the fabric. A simple “dust and wash off” method is not enough to deodorize small, hidden particles in your furniture, antiques, or clothes. That is why professional fire damage cleaning is necessary.
To prevent further damage to your belongings, call the professionals before trusting a DIY tutorial. They use high-tech equipment, techniques, and special chemicals—only used by certified technicians— to deodorize and sanitize your contents. All processes safely clean, protect, and maintain any item.
How to Remove Other Smells in your Home
Bad odors also linger in places like the kitchen, basement, and bathroom. They permeate areas such as carpets, fabrics, and your pets’ favorite spots. Here are budget-friendly tips for eliminating bad odors from various areas in your home:
- Remove the source of the smell. To truly fix the odor issue, identify the problem and fix it. For instance, fixing the plumbing could stop the bad smells from permeating your home.
- Wash hard surfaces, such as countertops, tables, hard floors, and walls. Use either your favorite cleaner or a mixture of half water, half white vinegar.
- Clean carpets and fabrics:
- For carpets, a simple way to eliminate odor is to use baking soda, a natural deodorizer. After the carpet is dry, sprinkle baking soda on it, then allow the baking soda to sit overnight. The next day, remove the baking soda with a vacuum cleaner.
- On upholstery, use white vinegar to absorb the odor. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spritz it on the upholstery. Wait until the vinegar air-dries. The strong smell of vinegar, along with the musty odors, will be gone once it has dried.
- Fight kitchen smells:
- Fridge — keep an open box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb smells. For more efficiency, wipe down shelves using hydrogen peroxide and a piece of cloth.
- Garbage disposal — grind some ice, then sprinkle Borax down the disposal and rinse it with water.
- Fish and other food smells – boil a cup of vinegar on the stove to release vapors that absorb smells quickly. Wipe down the cabinets with soap and warm water.
- Garbage can — if the can itself smells, wash it with water and white vinegar. If the garbage smells, but the can isn’t full yet, remove the odors by dropping some coffee grounds in it.
- Remove bathroom odors:
- Toilet — add 1 cup of white vinegar into the bowl, wait 5 minutes, then scrub and flush.
- Sink drain — mix ½ cup of bleach and ½ cup of water and pour it down the drain. Let it stand for 1 hour and then rinse with water.
Top Extension Cord Safety Tips
Does your home have too many electrical devices and too few outlets to plug them all? Chances are you’re using extension cords to power up your electrical devices. However, electrical cords can become fire hazards when used improperly. Follow these tips to use extension cords safely:
- Purchase only cords that are approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Fully insert the plug of an extension cord (or any plug for that matter) into an outlet.
- Check the maximum capacity of the extension cord and appliance or tool you’re using, and make sure you don’t exceed it.
- Unplug extension cords when you’re not using them. To safely unplug an extension cord, pull on the plug, NOT on the cord.
- Use extension cords only temporarily. Don’t substitute extension cords for permanent wiring.
- Don’t run extension cords through water or snow to avoid the high risk of electric shock. Keep water away from extension cords.
- Don’t run cords through ceilings, walls, doorways, or floors. Never place cords under carpets, either. Covered cords allow little heat to escape and pose a fire hazard.
- Keep cords out of the path of foot traffic to prevent tripping. Don’t leave cords dangling anywhere where they can be pulled down and tripped over.
- If you use too many extension cords, there may be too few outlets in your home. Have a qualified electrician install additional outlets to avoid using excess extension cords.
- Avoid chaining multiple extension cords – plug extension cords directly into mounted electrical receptacles. Use extension cords that are long enough for your needs.
- Inspect extension cords before using them. If a cord heats up or is damaged in any way, discard it.
- Always use extension cords with polarized and/or three-prong plugs. Don’t force a three-prong plug into two-prong outlets. Don’t remove or bend the ground pin to force a fit.
- Never use staples or nails to attach cords to a surface like a wall to prevent puncturing the cord’s insulation.
- Don’t overload extension cords with too many appliances. The cord can overheat and possibly cause a fire. Plug only one minor appliance into an extension cord.
- Plug major appliances, such as refrigerators, dryers, and washers, directly into a wall receptacle outlet.
- Never use indoor extension cords outdoors. For outside use, only use extension cords marked for outdoor use.
- When using cord-bundling devices, such as spiral wire wrap, avoid cramming cords together to prevent damaging the cord’s insulation.
What Is Mold?
Most people are aware that mold is a common problem in damp buildings. Whether it comes as a result of flood-related water damage or excess condensation, mold can very quickly take a hold of a building and bring a whole host of problems with it. But what is mold and the difference?
For everything we hear about mold, you’re probably left wondering "why is mold bad" and, more importantly, "is mold dangerous?" Here’s some important information to make sure you know about how to identify mold and the dangers posed by mold growth.
Is Mold Bad?
Mold is a type of fungi that grows in multicellular structures called hyphae. These hyphae produce the mold spores that are found indoors and outdoors. Although mold spores are found everywhere, in order to grow, mold requires moisture. Therefore, mold can be particularly prevalent in refrigerators and shower rooms, after a water pipe leak, or in the aftermath of flooding. There are thousands of different species of mold; some are used to produce common things like medicine (namely penicillin) and foods. However, when mold grows in your home or business, it can be detrimental, causing property damage.
So, why is mold bad? Mold growth in or around your property is dangerous for two reasons.
When mold starts to grow, it feeds on the materials it is growing on, resulting in irreversible damage.
How to Remove Mold Stains from Clothes
Damp clothes or fabrics can easily be infested with mold if they’re not dried in time. If you’re in this situation, there’s hope! You can still save your moldy garments if the mold has only left a few spots. Here are a few general tips for how to remove mold from clothes and fabric.
Read the label
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions about the suggested water temperature for washing and how the clothing items should be dried.
Scrub off the mold stain
Apply a mold stain remover, such as household soap, white vinegar or bleach, and use a toothbrush to brush off the surface mold. Be gentle and try not to damage the fabric in the process.
Pre-soak the fabric
Since mold stains are hard to remove, you should also pre-soak your stained garment before washing it. Saturate it for one hour in a commercial pre-soak product or in a bucket of water with one cup of white vinegar.
Wash your clothes in hot water
Besides being effective at removing bacteria and allergens, hot water also kills mold spores better. Of course, don’t surpass the maximum recommended water temperature to wash your clothing. If you have materials that can’t be washed, take them to the dry cleaner.
Use a mold killing solution in the washer:
Vinegar – Add one or two cups of vinegar per cycle along with normal detergent to kill any moldy smells and brighten your white fabrics.
Borax – You can also use borax in a regular washing cycle, but only with organic fabrics like cotton and linen. Dissolve half a cup of borax in hot water and add it into the machine once it has filled with water.
Bleach – This substance can kill mold in fabrics but it can fade colors. So make sure to spot-test first and read the label. Some labels say “no chlorine bleach”. Once you know your clothes won’t be damaged, wash them with normal detergent and one cup of bleach.
After washing your clothes, hang-dry them in the sun
Sunlight has a natural bleaching effect and also helps to kill mold spores in the fabric. Avoid using the clothes dryer as heat from this machine can make spots visible and difficult to remove.
What Causes Stachybotrys (Black Mold) To Grow?
Stachybotrys (Black Mold) in a room from water loss
Black mold typically refers to Stachybotrys Chartarum, which is one of several species of mold that produces a toxic byproduct called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are created as the mold breaks down the building materials feeding its growth. Certain mycotoxins can cause health effects if they’re inhaled by humans or pets, particularly infants or those with pre-existing health conditions, which is why people sometimes refer to black mold as “toxic mold.”
Just like any type of mold, black mold requires constant moisture in order to grow. This means that mold could thrive in the aftermath of water damage from a flood or a burst water pipe. Similarly, issues with roof leaks, clogged gutters, or landscaping can lead to major moisture and mold problems. For black mold to survive, it needs the following:
- A nutrient source on a surface to grow on (e.g. drywall, carpet, wood, and ceiling tiles)
- At least 24 to 48 hours
Provided these conditions are met, mold can grow virtually anywhere. Ultimately, however, moisture is the most important factor. If your home or business has a problem with moisture, whether it’s condensation or water damage, mold can grow and begin damaging the materials on which it’s growing.
Stachybotrys chartarum is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on material with a high cellulose content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, and paper. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth.