Wednesday, October 26, 2011

7 unexpected causes of house fires

Think your house is safe from fire? Think again. These are the facts about house fires: homes are full of fire hazards, some of which can be easily predicted and recognized—and some of which can’t. Even if you keep your matches under lock and key and never leave an unattended pot cooking or candle burning, you could be at risk in other ways. Here are a few causes of house fires that you may not be aware of.

Wall outlets. They look perfectly innocent—but your wall outlet could easily be the cause of house fires. If you notice when you plug in your appliances that the plugs fit loosely in the socket, you should get the outlets repaired immediately. Wall outlets that fit plugs loosely can cause overheating, which could easily lead to a fire if the problem is ignored. If you encounter this problem, check to see if the outlet is warm, unplug all appliances from the outlet, and call an electrician.

Faulty electrical wiring. Electrical appliances occasionally come with defects that can cause electrical fires on their own. However, the most common cause of house fires in the home caused by appliances is definitely caused by poor maintenance and overloaded power strips and circuits. Never plug in too many high-powered appliances on one circuit—it’s a definite risk of fire.

Extension cords. Extension cords can wear out and fray, exposing wiring to flammable materials and causing electrical fires. Don’t use an electrical cord on a regular basis for a high-powered appliance for more than a few weeks; call an electrician and get an extra outlet installed in a more convenient location instead. In addition, never hide your extension cords behind furniture or beneath a rug. It can get walked on under rugs, fraying the casing; in addition, you won’t be able to tell that the cord is getting hot—a warning sign of malfunction and fire risk—until it’s too late.

An unlandscaped yard. You don’t need a perfectly green yard to keep your home safe from fire. But you do need to clear away any dry, grown-in weeds, trees and bushes surrounding your home. Flammable flora can catch fire from a stray spark from your chimney, a lightning bolt, or heat from a discarded cigarette, among other threats—and if dry vegetation is too close, the fire could transition to your house. It only takes an unpredictable spark and a sudden, stiff wind to push a fire out of control.

Fire is highly unpredictable, and it can take only seconds for a fire to rage out of control. Keep an eye out for warm extension cords, loose wall outlets, too much brush and overgrowth around your house, and other hazards that could cause a devastating fire. With the right amount of vigilance and observance of fire prevention best practices, you should be able to keep your home, property and family safe from fire.

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