Common House Fire Causes

It’s easy for a house to catch fire through the misuse of appliances and sheer carelessness. Once a blaze is ignited, it can engulf your home in a shockingly fast period of time.

From the initial flames, the fire can spread rapidly within just 60 seconds, filling the room with smoke. After 90 seconds, the room temperature will noticeably increase. The layer of smoke in the room, which initially rises, will begin to descend.

In a matter of minutes, literally, you can find your escape is no longer straightforward and you’re in a position where your life is in danger and you require urgent assistance. Statistics show a fire can spread through a whole home in just five minutes.

Electric Fire

© Sunti Wongyai /


How quickly does a fire spread?

Having a fire alarm is vital to alert householders early enough to allow them to escape. After three minutes, heavy smoke will spread throughout the house, if the blaze is not contained in one room. Before the four-minute mark, the temperature in the room where the fire started can be as high as 750°C, alighting everything inside.

After four-and-a-half minutes, the flames will be shooting out of the windows and anyone inside the house will be in critical danger, as there will not be any obvious escape routes.


Common house fire causes

According to government statistics, there have been 29,570 fires in the UK in the past 12 months. By far the biggest cause was the misuse of appliances or equipment, which led to 9,025 fires. Misuse of equipment usually occurs in the kitchen, according to research by Electrical Safety First.

Leaving heated appliances unattended in the kitchen is a cause of 40% of the fires. Householders have usually forgotten about leaving food cooking in the oven, or on the hob, while 20% of them have gone in another room and fallen asleep. A massive 1,535 fires were caused by leaving the chip pan on and unattended.

A build-up of grease in an oven that hasn’t been cleaned for a long time can also make it more prone to setting alight. It’s very easy for pots and pans to overheat and set on fire if the person doing the cooking becomes distracted and forgets about them.

Always stay in the room when you’re cooking, especially on hot plates. If you have to leave the room, ask someone else to watch your food. If you’re home alone, set an alarm if you go in another room, or in the bath, to remind you to go and check the food, or to wake you up if you’ve fallen asleep.



When using portable heaters, keep them at least one metre away from other items that may set alight such as furniture, clothes and curtains. Don’t fall asleep in close proximity to a portable heater, in case your bedding or clothing fall on to it as you sleep, as this could have fatal results.

Placing items too close to a heat source caused 3,410 fires in the UK in the past 12 months. A further 2,360 were caused by a faulty fuel supply.

If you have appliances powered by gas or other natural fuels, you should have them inspected at least once a year and serviced regularly to prevent malfunctions.


Smoking in the bedroom

It’s much safer to make the bedroom off-limits if you’re a smoker. A carelessly discarded cigarette can lead to a fire that will burn your house down, so smoking in bed, last thing at night, when you’re tired, isn’t recommended.

If the cigarette isn’t put out properly, the butt may smoulder for hours. If it comes into contact with flammable materials such as your bedding, furniture, carpet, or bedside book, it could burst into flames.

Around 34% of fires start in the bedroom and as part of the fire service’s national Fire Kills campaign, it is reminding people that cigarettes and smoking products such as pipes are the biggest cause of fire fatalities in the home in the UK.


Electrical equipment

Any unattended electrical appliance is in danger of setting alight if it has a fault, including a frayed cord. Toasters left unattended are particularly susceptible to starting a fire. Similarly, if you overload your power point with double adapter plugs, this can also create a fault that will start a fire.

Faulty appliances and leads caused 3,961 fires in the UK in the past 12 months. Always use your power points correctly: don’t overload them, check the cords for fraying or other damage, and regularly check all plug sockets and electrical appliances in your home, even when they seem to be working properly.

Book a licensed electrician to come and inspect your home regularly, or if you’re in rented property, contact your landlord if you have any fears of faulty electrical wiring.



Candles may look and smell lovely, but they can cause a room to burst into flames if left unattended. Always keep candles away from any flammable items including tissue boxes, books or cushions. Always blow out candles before you leave the room.

If you have pets such as cats, don’t leave them in a room with lit candles, as they may jump on to a table or fireplace and knock the candles over. Although candles account for only 2% of reported fires in the home, they are high risk due to the naked flame.



Curious children playing with matches or lighters have caused 178 fires in UK homes in the past 12 months. These fires were not usually started deliberately or maliciously. Kids wonder what will happen if they set fire to a small object and if they find any matches lying around, they may decide to find out.

To avoid a disaster, keep matches and lighters away from children. Install smoke alarms in kids’ bedrooms and always have an escape route planned – just in case. Firefighters promote the “stop, drop, cover and roll” drill in the event of a fire.

If your clothing sets alight, stop where you are and don’t run around panicking. Drop to the floor and cover your mouth and eyes with your hands. Roll over, backwards and forwards, as this will help to put the flames out.

Tell kids to get help from a grown-up, who will cool any burns down and get medical help. Train children to do the drill in the event of a fire and even have a practice run – it may save their lives. Make sure they know to ring 999 in the event of an emergency, should the adult be injured, or unconscious.



If the lampshades are too small and too close to the light bulb, they can get overheated and catch fire. Similarly, if a bright light is left close to curtains, or other soft furnishings, this can also cause a blaze. The fire that partially destroyed Windsor Castle in 1992 was found to have started after a bright light was left too close to a curtain in the chapel.

If the lamp base is wobbly and the lamp can be knocked over easily, this is also a hazard, as it could leave the bulb touching flammable materials. If you have down-lights, ensure they are insulated away from timbers or wood panelling.

Although these are good tips to help avoid a fire in your home, in the worst-case scenario, should a blaze damage your property, ensure you have the appropriate insurance to cover your home and contents.

If you’ve suffered a hazardous situation, such as a fire, Furniture Rental’s emergency and insurance furniture can be delivered quickly, so you can return to normality as soon as possible.

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