by Carla Hill
Each year, thousands of homeowners are devastated by fires. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 3,500 Americans die and another 18,000 are injured in fires.
Some of these fires are started in the home while others come in the form of wildfires, which run rampant when conditions are right. Many of these fires could have been prevented.
Let's examine some of the main causes of home fires and what can be done to safeguard your property.
The leading cause of fire-related deaths may surprise you. It's not faulty electrical work or California wildfires. Instead, it is smoking. Cigarette fires kill 1,000 Americans each year and injure another 4,000. Additionally, cigarettes start a quarter of all fires each year.
USA Today reports that "cigarette fires have been the top cause of U.S. fire fatalities for decades, killing tens of thousands of people in the past 30 years, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a research group that provides data for state and federal fire codes."
If you're a smoker, keep your butts in one spot, not littered around your yard and community. Never toss them next to buildings, along roadways, or in dumpsters or trashcans. Better yet -- don't smoke at all!
Another leading cause of fires is children playing with fire. Be sure to have a serious talk with your children, no matter the age, about the dangers of setting fires. Over 100,000 fires are started each year by children and over 30 percent of those fires end up killing the children that started them. It takes less than 30 seconds for a small flame to turn into a major fire.
Be responsible and create a no fire zone around your home.
Never leave a fire, candle, or cigarette unattended.
Have smoke detectors on each level of your home
Have a home fire extinguisher, as well as a garden hose.
Never build fires or burn brush near your home or during dry, windy conditions
Remove dead leaves from gutters and your roof.
If you live on a hill, beware that fires spread quickly as they move uphill. Patios and stone walls can help deflect flames.
Avoid the use of bark chips or mulch, which are highly flammable.
FEMA gives homeowners some valuable tips about 30-foot safe zones to help safeguard their property during wildfires. This is especially important when conditions are "just right."
First, fire feeds on vegetation. Keep shrubs to a minimum, remove vines from the walls of your home, and consider low flammability species. Prune branches so that none are within 15 feet of the ground. Additionally, always keep firewood stacked at least 100 feet from any structure.
Cover house vents with wire mesh to keep embers from entering the home.
Prepare for water storage and have an external water supply, such as a small pond, well, or pool.
Use fire-resistant building materials.
Avoid flammable roofing materials and instead choose single ply membranes, fiberglass shingles, slate, metal, clay and concrete tile.
Sometimes there's nothing that can be done to prevent a fire; it's already on its way across the landscape. A responsible homeowner, however, takes precautions to safeguard their home and loved ones in the event that a fire does spread.
As Smokey the Bear says, "Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires."