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What You NEVER Expected: The Most Common Causes of Residential Fires Locally

You’ve likely read a lot of articles about what the most common reasons are for fires at a residence. We’ve also read a lot of these articles and it seems most give the same top few reasons: Unattended cooking, outdated or improperly used heating unit/device, careless smoking, forgotten candles, improperly stored hot ashes and so on. Many of […]



You’ve likely read a lot of articles about what the most common reasons are for fires at a residence. We’ve also read a lot of these articles and it seems most give the same top few reasons: Unattended cooking, outdated or improperly used heating unit/device, careless smoking, forgotten candles, improperly stored hot ashes and so on. Many of these articles are
found in national publications.

We have often wondered, and maybe you have too, what are the common causes of fire locally. When a fire investigation is done after fires in Marin, Sonoma and surrounding areas….what caused them?

We are fortunate to have spoken recently to Steve Walton, Fire Investigator of the Larkspur Fire Dept. Steve is extremely knowledgeable and kindly spent hours answering questions about the origin of fires and providing information we feel you might find helpful.

Like boat and barbecues, lawn-mowing season is back. Just remember that under the right conditions, a lawnmower is a fire waiting to happen. Steve states that lawn-mowing fires are
one of the most common local causes of loss. Often the metal blade of the mower will hit a rock, causing sparks that ignite dried grass.

Ideally grass will have been mowed before it turned from green to tall, dry and brown, but the reality is not everyone has a chance to take care of their grass cutting before they should have and this is a problem.

So what do you do if it’s the middle of summer and you find yourself needing to mow? Steve’s best advice makes perfect sense: only cut grass in the morning when temperatures are lower, humidity is higher and on a day with little to no wind. This might mean spreading your mowing project out over a week’s time; it’s possible you’ll only be able to mow from 7am-
8 am each morning and not on consecutive days.

Another common cause of loss is cooking related fires. Common sense is to never leave cooking food unattended…not even for a second. However, distractions can and do happen – especially when there are kids, pets and elderly in the home. The best rule to follow is, never step out of the kitchen away from the stove without turning off the stove. Seconds away from a stove quickly turn into minutes and this is all it takes for a fire to get started.

Fire Investigator Steve stated also that a number of local fires are a result of improper storage of combustible materials. Often fires occur due to residents of apartments using the water heater or furnace area of the apartment as an overflow storage area. When space is limited, it’s tempting to open the small door and place some items next to the water heater or furnace…thinking nothing will happen. These items are typically brooms, mops, plastic bags with items of clothes, shoes, etc.

Unfortunately malfunctions of water heaters and furnaces occur and a spark leads to a fire starting. This fire quickly spreads and the outcome can be a significant loss of property and even life. The same can occur when homeowners place these same items or other combustible items near the water heater or furnace in a home or garage. Steve advises to keep at least 30 inches of clearance – should a malfunction occur, the chances of a fire starting will be minimal.

Lastly, a common cause of fire that Steve mentioned is one that surprised us the most. Steve states that he is beginning to see surge protector and power strips, purchased by consumers in local retail and home improvement stores, which are inferior. They were manufactured in such a way that the poor quality and reliability result in their failure and a fire ignites.

What we took away from the conversation about fires being started, as a result of the malfunction of surge protectors and power strips, is that consumers should be cautious when
making a purchase of these items. The message is that all surge protections and power strips are not created equal. If you are deciding between buying one made in China that feels light
and less sturdy than a more expensive, heavier power surge or power strip…spend the extra money.

We hope you find this article helpful and wish to thank Steve Walton of the Larkspur Fire Department for his time in providing valuable information. Please feel free to contact our office if you have any questions.

For more information about Homeowner’s Insurance, please contact Ramona Johanneson at rjohanneson@fp-ins.com or by calling415-493-2502.

http://fp-ins.com/individuals-families/