11 Ways To and Prevent and Protect Against House Fires

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House fires can start from several common home occurrences, including cooking, using heating equipment, electrical malfunctions and unintentional or careless mistakes. While homeowners insurance can help get you back on your feet after a house fire, for your safety, it's in your best interest to avoid and prevent house fires altogether.

In 2024, there are already over 1,000 home fire fatalities reported.[1] Read on to learn more about how to prevent house fires and safety tips to follow in case a fire does break out.

Key Takeaways

  • Cooking accidents accounted for nearly half of all residential building fires reported in 2022.
  • Smoke detectors should be replaced at least once every 10 years.
  • Good ways to prevent house fires include having and learning how to operate your fire extinguisher, never leaving an open flame unattended and burning only well-seasoned wood in your fireplace.
  • If a fire does break out, your homeowners insurance should cover damages to your house and personal property.
  • If you file a claim for fire damage, your home insurance rate may increase when you renew your policy.

What Are the Most Common Causes of House Fires?

Of the 374,300 residential building fires reported in 2022, cooking accidents were the leading cause (48%), followed by heating (9%), unintentional and careless actions (9%) and electrical malfunctions (7%).[1] In many of these cases, the causes could have been avoided with proactive measures, keeping and maintaining necessary home fire safety equipment and never leaving an active fire unattended.

common causes of house fires 2022

How To Protect Your Home From a House Fire

Read below for preparation tips on how to prevent house fires in the home, as well as safety measures to take when a fire does break out. Remember: Filing a claim can increase your homeowners insurance premium when you renew your policy, so it’s best to avoid having to file one in the first place.

1. Install and Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

For proper coverage, place a smoke alarm on every floor of your home, including each bedroom and hallway. Install alarms on the ceiling, away from windows, vents, and airflow areas. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can alert you to fires or gas leaks, providing time to react. Some smoke alarms include carbon monoxide sensors, but ensure all detectors are powered correctly and installed in ideal locations.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested at least once a month, which can be done by pressing the test button and holding it for a few seconds. If the device lets out a brief alarm, you’ll know it’s working correctly, but if it remains silent or weak, that may be a sign you need to replace the batteries or check with an electrician if the device is hardwired instead. Some detectors may vary the number and frequency of beeps when testing to indicate specific information, so check your model’s manual for more specific details on the condition of your detectors.

Detectors sensors wear down over time and you should replace your smoke alarms every 10 years and may need to replace a carbon monoxide detector every five.[2][3]

2. Have Fire Extinguishers Ready

Ideally, there should be a fire extinguisher on every floor of your home so that you can smother small fires yourself. Extinguishers are labeled for their intended uses, with the most commonly found in homes being classes A, B and C:[4]

  • Class A: Meant for ordinary combustibles like cloth, wood or paper
  • Class B: Meant for flammable liquids like grease, oil or gasoline
  • Class C: Meant for electrical fires

Some fire extinguishers may even have a combination of two or more classes, such as B-C or A-B-C. Regardless of their class, extinguishers should always be kept where they’re easily accessible and can be grabbed as quickly as possible. An extinguisher's size is also worth considering, with the ideal being as large as possible while still light enough to carry.

Fire extinguishers may need to be checked monthly to ensure sufficient pressure, while others may only need to be checked every few years.[3] Most extinguishers have a pressure indicator to show their current pressure value. If the pressure isn’t in the green “charged” area, you may need to replace your extinguisher or have it serviced — otherwise, you risk it failing when you need to use it.

3. Replace Old Power Outlets and Electrical Cords

Outlets and electrical cords don’t last forever and certain conditions may have made them a fire hazard. Some outlets can last for 15 years or longer, while others need replacing in as little as five, so if you have an older home or suspect there may be issues with an outlet, it may be worth having an electrician inspect your home.[5][6] If you notice any discoloration, warping or scorch marks around your outlet, it’s generally a sign it needs to be replaced.

In addition, signs of old age or wear and tear like loose sockets that don’t hold plugs snuggly or even visible wire fraying can signal that it’s time for a replacement. Internal faulty wiring due to age or poor installation may also lead to sparks that could start a fire. If the outlet runs warm, especially if nothing is plugged into it, it may be a potential issue and you should contact an electrician as soon as possible.

4. Avoid Unsafe Cooking Practices

Most house fires start in the kitchen, typically due to leaving the stovetop unattended. If you need to step away from the kitchen due to an emergency, ask another household member to watch the kitchen for you. Otherwise, it may be safest to pause cooking and turn off any appliances until you can return.

Grease and oils are easily flammable and can be difficult to put out if they catch fire. If a grease fire occurs while cooking, do not try to douse it with water or move any pans in use, as this can spread the fire. Instead, cover it with an air-tight metal lid to suffocate the fire, pour salt or baking soda over the fire if it's small or use a class B fire extinguisher.

5. Don’t Leave Candles Unattended

Between 2018 and 2022, candles caused four percent of all reported house fires, with 21% occurring after the candle was left unattended or misused.[7] To help prevent a candle-related house fire, ensure that no furniture, curtains, clothing or other flammable materials are nearby, as half of the candle-based fires were caused by home decor being too close. If you have children or pets ensure any candles or fire-starting materials aren’t within their potential reach.

Never burn a candle while heading to bed, even if it’s lit in the room and you intend to put it out before falling asleep, as you could easily forget to snuff it out before dozing off. There may be manufacturer instructions on burn time limits, but in general, you should limit a candle’s burn to four hours and wait at least two hours before relighting it.[8] Always ensure your candle wick no longer glows after putting it out, which is the sign it’s been safely extinguished.

6. Check Your Heating Appliances

Common appliances used to heat your home, like space heaters, are common causes of house fires. Space heaters use high wattage to radiate heat but because of this, they can potentially light nearby furnishings and personal property on fire if they are kept too close. Additionally, many portable heaters are meant to be stationary, but if tipped over, they could start a fire through contact with a rug, carpet or wood flooring.

Cleaning the lint trap of your clothes dryer, another heating appliance, is key to preventing accidental fires. After you finish a load, always clean the lint filter before inserting another load. In addition, avoid overloading the dryer. If you want to take it a step further in preventing fires, get your entire duct system cleaned at least twice a year.[9]

7. Inspect and Clean Your Fireplace Before Use

Chimneys, fireplaces and other types of vents should be inspected and cleaned once a year to prevent the build-up of soot and creosote, a flammable byproduct from combustion that can cling to chimney walls.[10] Even if you rarely use your chimney since your last cleaning and aren’t concerned about flammable residues, small animals that hide or nest in chimneys could potentially lead to unsafe conditions if a fire is lit under them.

When using your fireplace, only burn well-seasoned wood. Other materials like cardboard and paper may burn too intensely and quickly to escape up a fireplace’s chimney, forcing the flames to spill out of the fireplace and potentially catch nearby items on fire. During the holiday season, ensure Christmas trees are placed at least three feet away from a fireplace, and if it’s a live try, to water it regularly, as a dry tree can easily catch fire from stray sparks.[11]

8. Avoid Using Light Bulbs With a Higher Wattage Rating

Higher wattages typically equate to more power usage and brighter light but it can also result in more heat that could start home fires. Using a bulb with a higher recommended wattage for the lamp or other device it is plugged into could cause components to melt, potentially allowing electricity to arc to other objects. Additionally, the heat from the bulb could cause nearby flammable objects, like a cloth or polyester lampshade, to catch fire.

Ensure you’re using the recommended bulb wattage by checking the lamp or other device for manufacturer labels that should list the maximum wattage you can safely use.

9. Smoke Responsibly

Smoking indoors can be a significant fire hazard — of the 353,500 fires reported in 2021, 7,800 (2%) involved cigarettes.[12][13] When you smoke outdoors, ensure you properly dispose of your cigarette. Especially in rural areas or places with wild vegetation, like an unkept dry lawn, a stray spark from a cigarette could easily lead to a wildfire.

E-cigarette usage also requires good home fire safety, with their lithium-ion batteries having a chance to explode and cause a fire or injury. Don’t overcharge an e-cigarette; keep it out of extreme temperatures to keep your battery healthy. If your battery doesn’t hold a charge, gets excessively warm or is swelling inside the case, stop using it and replace the battery or device, as this may be a warning your battery is at risk of catching fire.

10. Create a Fire Escape Plan

A house fire may occur no matter your precautions and can’t be safely extinguished yourself, meaning the best course of action is to escape and call for help as quickly and safely as possible. Having a good fire escape plan in advance can help you avoid injury or worse if the fire becomes inextinguishable. A speedy evacuation may also give you more time to contact your local fire department to rescue anyone trapped inside, subdue the blaze and potentially reduce fire damage to your home.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when determining your escape plan:

  • Understand the layout of your home, including all possible exits like doors and windows.
  • Discuss evacuation plans with family and other household members, including an outdoor meeting point.
  • Don’t block potential exits with furniture or other objects, ensuring they can be opened easily.
  • Test smoke detectors, ensuring they’re installed in every person's sleep room.
  • Check that your street number is clearly visible outside for fire department responders.
  • If someone living in your home might have difficulties evacuating, such as an older person or infant, designate someone to assist during an evacuation. If possible, designate a backup assistant in case the primary assistant isn’t home.

11. Confirm You Have Enough Home Insurance Coverage

One of the best steps in protecting your home is ensuring proper homeowners insurance coverage, as even with sufficient preventative measures and good home fire safety habits, a house fire could happen at any time. Having enough coverage to rebuild your home if it is completely lost in a fire can provide peace of mind.

Insure Your Home Against Fires and More!


Does homeowners insurance cover fire damage?

Yes, homeowners insurance will insure your house and personal belongings against fire damage. If a fire leaves your home uninhabitable, your insurer can even help pay for a hotel stay while your home is being rebuilt or repaired.

Are older homes more susceptible to house fires?

Older homes are sometimes more susceptible to home fires as they were not built with modern electric devices in mind and may be more prone to electrical-based fires due to old or outdated wiring.[14] However, newer homes built using more flammable construction materials and open floor plans may cause an otherwise extinguishable flame to spread faster, giving both types of homes pros and cons regarding home fire vulnerability.[15]

How often do house fires happen in the U.S.?

Of all fires reported in 2022, nearly 25% of those fires involved a house. In fact, one house fire was reported every 88 seconds on average that year.[16]


  1. U.S. Fire Administration. “Statistics.” Accessed June 3, 2024.
  2. Texas Dept. of Insurance. “Smoke Alarms: Where To Put Them,  How Often To Replace Batteries.” Accessed June 3, 2024.
  3. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Basics.” Accessed June 3, 2024.
  4. U.S. Fire Administration. “Choosing and Using Fire Extinguishers.” Accessed June 3, 2024.
  5. Wiretech Company. “Do Electrical Outlets Wear Out?.” Accessed June 4, 2024.
  6. Kolb Electric. “Signs You Need To Replace Your Old Electrical Outlets?.” Accessed June 4, 2024.
  7. National Fire Protection Association. “Safety With Candles.” Accessed June 4, 2024.
  8. National Candle Association. “Fire Safety & Candles.” Accessed June 4, 2024.
  9. Envista Forensics. “Dryer Fires: Common Causes and Prevention Tips.” Accessed June 4, 2024.
  10. Chimney Safety Institute of America. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Accessed June 4, 2024.
  11. U.S. Fire Administration. “Holiday Fire Safety.” Accessed June 4, 2024.
  12. U.S. Fire Administration. “Residential Building Smoking Fire Trends.” Accessed June 4, 2024.
  13. U.S. Fire Administration. “Residential Fire Estimate Summaries.” Accessed June 6, 2024.
  14. Electrical Safety Foundation International. “Know the Dangers in Your Older Home,” Page 2. Accessed June 4, 2024.
  15. Warren Restoration. “New Construction Burns Faster than Older Homes.” Accessed June 4, 2024.
  16. National Fire Protection Association. “Fire Loss in the United States.” Accessed June 4, 2024.

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