In commemoration of the great Chicago fire 145 years ago—yes, that one, attributed to Mrs. O’Leary and her cow—we have National Prevention Week every October. Fires are terrifying but often preventable. To help keep your family safe, we’re sharing some important info and tips from the National Fire Prevention Association.

Common causes of house fires & fire-related deaths

  1. Cooking is the #1 cause of home fires as well as home fire injuries; 40% of home fires start in the kitchen.
  2. Frying is the leading activity associated with cooking fires.
  3. More than half of those injured in fires involving cooking were hurt while attempting to extinguish the fire.
  4. Smoking is the leading cause of civilian (non-firefighter) home fire deaths; heating equipment is the 2nd most common cause.
  5. Clothes dryers are also a common cause of house fires, causing nearly 17,000 fires each year nationwide. The top reason a dryer catches fire? A clogged lint filter.
  6. On average 25 home fires are caused each day by candles. The top 3 days for home candle fires: Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.


Kids playing with fire

  1. Younger children are more likely to set fires inside homes; tweens and teens are more likely to set fires outdoors.
  2. Boys are much more likely to play with fire than girls—83% of home structure fires are set by them.
  3. More than a third of fires caused by kids playing with matches or lighters began in a bedroom.

Creating safer homes

  1. Closed doors can slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire; close all bedroom doors at night.
  2. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home. 
  3. Let children know that matches and lighters are for adult use only, and tell them that if they find a match or lighter, they should tell a grown up immediately.
  4. Not only should you test the batteries in your smoke detectors every 6 months, you should also replace your smoke detectors every 10 years (“Don’t Wait, Check the Date” is the theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week).

Make a fire escape plan

  1. Make an escape plan, finding at least two ways out of each room. You can develop your own plan using a downloadable grid from the National Fire Prevention Association.
  2. Pick a meeting place outside your home, ideally in front near the street.
  3. Practice your fire escape plan, at night, twice a year. Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 pm and 7 am.
  4. Set off the alarms for the drill, and if your children don’t awaken on their own, you’ll know to add assistance with their wake-up to your fire escape plan.
  5. For infants and very young children, assign someone to assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. Assign a backup person too, in case the designee is not home during an actual emergency.
  6. In addition to your fire escape plan, tell your children that during fire emergencies, firemen look and sound different, with face masks and heavy gear, and not to be scared. Also, tell them never to hide under their bed or in a closet.