The 4 most common types of fire
Kitchen, electrical, heater and smoking-related fires are particularly common types of fires
While fires can start at any time and anywhere, below are descriptions of the four most common types of fires. Acknowledging these types of fires may help you to reduce or even eliminate the risk of starting a fire.
1. Kitchen fires
The most common type of fire in the U.S. is the kitchen fire. The reason that the kitchen is the source of many fire hazards is because the kitchen is where heat, electricity, water, and grease come together.
The most common type of kitchen fire is the grease fire. A grease fire is extremely dangerous as it can get out of control quickly and spread from the stove throughout the kitchen and into other rooms of the house.
Many grease fires occur because someone leaves a frying pan on the stove unattended. They also occur when someone overheats a pan during attended cooking if the grease catches fire. Grease fires can cause serious injury and extensive property damage.
Other types of kitchen fires include oven fires and appliance fires. Fires can also get started in the kitchen when electricity comes in contact with water.
[Read next: How to put out a grease fire]
2. Electrical fires
Electrical fires are caused by a number of different factors, including faulty appliances, worn or faulty electrical wiring, improper use of electrical outlets and worn out breaker boxes.
Older homes often do not have the proper wiring to handle the amount of electrical appliances in use today. Often old wiring inside walls becomes frayed or worn, causing shorts and sparks that can ignite.
Old breaker boxes are made to shut off electrical current when the circuit becomes overloaded as a fire prevention measure, but often the connections are worn or broken and do not activate the breaker switch.
Lighting is another cause of electrical fires, which can be triggered by improper wiring or the use of bulbs that are higher in wattage than the amount recommended for the lighting appliance.
3. Heater fires
This type of fire is particularly common in the winter months. Portable heaters should always have automatic shutoffs that activate when they overheat as a fire precaution.
Coil space heaters are especially hazardous because the coils will ignite anything combustible nearby. Always keep any type of space heater a minimum of three feet from anything combustible. That includes curtains, bedding, clothing and furniture. Always shut space heaters off when you’re not in the room.
Extension cords should not be used with space heaters as they generate too much electricity and can start a fire.
4. Smoking-related fires
Fires caused by cigarettes account for 1,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Many times the smoker is not the person who dies.
Most smoking fires are started by embers igniting on furniture, bedding and trash cans. Smokers should always be sure cigarettes are completely extinguished before emptying ashtrays into the trash.
Never smoke in bed and never smoke when you are tired, inebriated, or drowsy from medication. Do not place ashtrays on flammable surfaces like couches, chairs, or beds where they can tip over and start a fire.
The best way to prevent smoking-related fires is to smoke outside the house and have a can filled with sand to extinguish cigarette butts.
Honorable mention: Forest Fires
The increasing length and cost of subsequent wildfire seasons make them a particularly common type of fire in their own right. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated damage from 2017 wildfires at around $10 billion, with the loss of more than 8 million acres of U.S. land.
Forest fires often start from human negligence or natural conductors like lighting or spontaneous combustion.
Learn more 101 firefighting tips:
- How to choose the best type of fire extinguisher
- How to prevent – and extinguish – a Christmas tree fire
This article, originally published on May 14, 2018, has been updated.