5 unusual risks and causes of house fires and what to do about them

We all know the typical fire hazards of a home: candles, leaving the oven on, unattended fireplaces, leaving flammable objects near a heater, cooking oil splashing onto a stovetop causing a grease fire… All of these are very valid risks, but we are here to tell you some hazards you may not know.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of these, so you can avoid any possible house fires in the future. Let us take a few minutes now to fire them off to you:

  1. Clogged dryer vents
    How often do you check your dryer vents? Probably not very often. They aren’t usually something most people think twice about. According to an article on bpihomeowner.org, lint is extremely flammable. A dryer vent clogged with lint and debris could easily cause a fire, which means serious damage to your house. Here are some signs that your vent is clogged: 

    • A musty odor is present in the clothing after the drying cycle
    • Lint build-up is present in large amounts in the lint trap after each dry cycle
    • There is debris within the outside dryer vent opening
    • The room with the dryer has excessive heat
    • Clothes are hotter to the touch than usual
    • When you use the dryer vent hood flap, it does not properly open (This is a slitted vent outside your home, usually attached to the wall. See photo below for reference.)

      See the gray box in between the tan box and the brown gutter pipe? That’s the dryer vent. If you look closely, you can see that the black wire coming out of its bottom is covered in dirt, lint, and debris. There is also tons of debris coming out of the bottom, which means the vent is backed up. If you notice this outside your own home, or notice any of the signs above, it’s a good idea to clean out the vent, or have a professional come in and do that for you.
  2. Closet lights
    I bet you only ever think about your closet when you need to pick an outfit, get a nice suit ready for that big meeting, or throw some junk in there when you don’t feel like actually organizing it. Do you know what kind of bulb your closet light has? How many watts is it? According to nickleelectrical.com, some smaller or older homes have a single light bulb in the closets. It’s incandescent, and usually turns on with a little yank of a chain connected to it. You know the kind we mean, right? Your parents or grandparents probably had one very similar. Although these bulbs are quaint and vintage, they actually give off more heat than most people realize. If the closet is filled with flammable objects (which, most are– clothes, newspapers, miscellaneous junk and trinkets are all usually flammable), this could be a recipe for disaster. Especially if the bulb is kept on for a while, the heat could catch fire to the scattered junk in the closet space. To avoid this, you can swap out the incandescent bulb with an LED energy efficient one. Those give off much less heat and conserve energy, which lowers the risk of a house fire. Another tip: make sure to keep your closets organized and tidy. Throw away all those old papers or keep them tucked away elsewhere. Make it a fun weekend project to clean up your closet, so you won’t have to clean up the remains of your house!

    You can replace your old closet bulbs with safer, LED lights like these.
  3. Bird nests
    Believe it or not, if a bird builds a nest on your outdoor lights, this could cause a fire. The dry sticks and debris that birds use to make their homes are actually very flammable, according to nickleelectrical.com.  If they’re on top of outdoor lights, the heat from the bulb could cause a fire. Make sure to check where your neighborhood birdy pals have built their nests, because if it’s on top of or very close to a lightbulb outside, your pal could become Birdy Barbeque. (Not to mention, your house will too.)
  4. Loose outlets
    This may be a given, but it’s always wise to check your electrical outlets.  According to the Electrical Safety Foundation (ESFI), “loose outlets are not only a nuisance, but can be a serious fire hazard if left unrepaired.”  Every year, 50,000 fires occur in US homes, resulting in 500 deaths, according to ESFI. Around 10% of those fires were caused by faulty or loose electrical outlets. I’d say that’s a big percentage. How can you tell if your electrical outlet is loose? If it looks like the wiring is sticking out, or if the plastic plate that normally covers the wires isn’t screwed on correctly… It may be time to get that properly looked at. And if your outlet looks like this guy below? Definitely get that checked. He is as loose as it gets.

    Remember, you can always ask your home inspector to check out your outlets if you are unsure. We include these in our inspections anyway, but if you need extra help or tips, we are always here to help!
  5. Old or vintage appliances

    That old TV you rescued from Goodwill? The 60’s style toaster you bought from a vintage store online? While they may be very trendy and cool-looking, they are also potential fire hazards. This is because the electrical wiring in the appliances is old and may have corrosion or a faulty connection. It is best to take these into a store that can examine the wiring closely and search for anything that may be an issue. This is not to say that you need to ditch the hip-looking fridge you just bought last week from that secondhand store down the street, but it is always safe to check.

Some fire hazards are common sense, but some are a bit more uncommon. It’s always best to do a search of your home for potential fire hazards, especially if they are as unusual as the ones on this list. It will only take you a few minutes, and you could save you and your family thousands of dollars in potential damages to your home and belongings. If you have any questions, reach out to one of our inspectors and ask! We are here to help give you peace of mind.

Picture of Justin Jurovcik

Justin Jurovcik

Home Inspector & Fireman
Owner: ARK Home Inspection

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