By Polly Keary, Editor, and Elana Pigeon, Intern
Blazes in recent months have damaged or destroyed homes near Cherry Valley, on High Rock Road and in Monroe.
After each fire, investigators work to determine the cause of the blaze.
Typically, house fires don’t happen because of carelessness or risky behavior. Rather, they happen because a resident wasn’t aware of a bad or worsening safety issue.
Here are several important causes of house fires and what you can do to prevent them:
Electrical fires cause a lot of the fires Monroe Fire Marshal Mike Fitzgerald sees in a year.
Sometimes fires are started when a circuit is overloaded.
“If you have circuits that are tripping all the time, there’s a problem,” he said. “If your electrical cords are warm to the touch, you have a problem.”
If your circuits trip all the time, reconfigure the power load so that some appliances are running off another circuit.
And keep electrical cords from getting wrapped around themselves, which can cause them to overheat.
Nationwide, cooking is the leading cause of house fires, accounting for 40 percent of the total. Mostly they happen when a stove or oven is left unattended.
Make sure the area around the burners of the stove is clear of flammable things like cookbooks and curtains. Don’t leave the room while things are cooking. And keep a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen.
One in four house fire deaths is caused by a lit cigarette. The best way to avoid smoking-related fires is to not smoke in your house. Most smoking fires start when cigarettes touch mattresses or upholstery. For safety’s sake, don’t smoke on the couch or in an armchair, and never smoke in bed.
In the summer months it’s not much of an issue, but there are a lot of houses that catch fire in the winter because of poorly placed heaters. The cause of the vast majority of heating fires are small portable space heaters. Place them well away from flammable objects.
Dryer fires cause 2,900 fires a year; lint accumulation is a big contributor. Most of these fires could have been avoided if the dryer was cleaned regularly. Basic maintenance can prevent these costly and dangerous hazards later on.
To make sure your dryer is operating safely:
- Keep the lint to a minimum: clean the filter or screen before or after each load.
- Vacuum around and behind the dryer often, especially near the lint screen.
- Check the exhaust vent often to make sure there is nothing flammable in the way, like leaves or other fire hazards.
- Have a professional clean the dryer-vent pipe twice a year, and the heating system, motor, belt, and rollers should be checked every year or two.