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Hidden Fire Hazards

House fires are most commonly caused by cooking, heating (portable heaters, fireplaces and chimneys), arson, electrical wiring, and smoking.

Cell phone chargers

Low-voltage charging devices generate heat when plugged into an electrical outlet, and the power cords are capable of producing enough heat to cause a fire – even if the phone isn’t plugged in. Chargers should never be plugged in near combustible materials, especially bedding, carpet, furniture, paper and other items that might have a tendency to over insulate the device.


In 2012, a fire broke out in a New Hampshire home. The cause? A simple 9V battery. According to the New Hampshire Department of Safety, “A 9 volt battery is a fire hazard because the positive and negative posts are on top, right next to one another. If the ends come in contact with anything metal i.e. aluminum foil, steel wool, paper clip, other batteries, etc. this will create the object to heat up and ignite a fire.” You can prevent accidental ignition by storing batteries in their original packaging or covering the posts with electrical tape.

An untidy yard

Dead bushes, piles of leaves and other dried out plant material or rubbish can easily catch fire from stray sparks escaping from a chimney, a carelessly discarded cigarette, or even lightning. Make sure to clear away any debris away from your home to prevent a fire from spreading to your house.


The more “stuff” you have, the more fuel there is for a fire. Extreme hoarding may also hamper the ability of fire fighters to put out the flames. A 2009 Australian study found that hoarding fires are tougher to fight, and are far deadlier, than other types of residential fires.

Most fires start in the kitchen, so make sure to keep countertops around your stove clear of paper towels, potholders, and other combustibles. Never leave cooking unattended and make sure to have an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby.

Dryer Lint

Even if you change your lint filter after every load, your dryer my still be a fire hazard. Annual dryer maintenance should include a thorough cleaning of the blower housing (the area under the lint filter), dryer cabinet and the dryer vent. Brushes are available to clean out the vent and blower housing. Some dryers have a removable panel that will give you easy access to cleaning out the cabinet of the dryer. Other models must be dismantled, so you may need to hire a trained service technician to do the job for you.

Weirdness ‘Across the Pond’

In Great Britain, the London Fire Brigade investigates nearly 2000 fires each year. In an effort to increase fire safety awareness, London’s investigators have released a list of the strangest fires they have encountered. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • A fire started after someone tried to dry out a roll of toilet paper that had been dropped in the commode by popping it in the microwave for a few minutes.
  • A dog turned on a toaster with its paws as it leapt onto a kitchen counter to reach some food. Bread left in a bag on top of the toaster caught fire. The kitchen was damaged but the dog survived.
  • The sun’s rays reflecting off a crystal ball caused nearby curtains to ignite.
  • A mouse got into the back of a fridge freezer and shorted the electrics causing a blaze.
  • A man using a pair of boxer shorts to vigorously apply linseed oil to a floor caused the pants to overheat and a fire to start.
  • A pigeon dropped a discarded lit cigarette down a chimney, which had been blocked up. Causing a fire to start in a bird’s nest 

At Elk & Elk, we encourage you to talk to your family about fire safety. Install smoke detectors on every level of your home be sure and change the batteries regularly. Keep in mind that more home fires occur in winter than in any other season. Click here to learn how to Put a Freeze on Winter Fires.