When Hank refinished the antique rocker, the gleaming ebony wood impressed his entire family. Hank was so pleased that he neglected to properly dispose of the linseed-stained rags. They spontaneously combusted and blackened the garage before the fire was quenched. 

“We work on many, many homes that are damaged by fires due to owner carelessness like this,” says Andrew Golkin, President Paul Davis of Suburban Virginia. “What should Hank have done with the rags? Store them outside in a ventilated container approved for this purpose and dispose of them very promptly. We see about seven typical types of carelessness very frequently.”

Golkin listed the other six common fire safety missteps in memorable fashion: stories that end with a safety tip. 

Smoking: Judith stepped outside briefly after lighting a cigarette and leaving it on the edge of her plate. Her trip outside took longer than anticipated. The fallen cigarette had ignited the tablecloth by the time she returned. Safety tip: never leave a burning tobacco item unattended and always use an ashtray.

Home heating devices: Hannah, excited to see her grandmother, knocked over the space heater in the front room as she ran by. Her grandmother soon smelled smoke and quickly put out the flames with a fire extinguisher. Safety tip: Never leave these devices running unattended. Place them on secure surfaces, away from all flammable items and plugged directly into outlets that are equipped to handle heavy electrical loads. 

Kitchen fires: Dave, preparing a tart for dinner, browned sliced almonds in a toaster oven. The blackened nuts, heated for too long, burst into flames. Dave opened the toaster oven door and leaping flames ignited the cabinets. Responding quickly, the fire department confined the damage to the kitchen. Safety tip: Always store a fire extinguisher nearby and never leave unattended items cooking.

Candles: Rhonda, enjoying the pumpkin spice scent and soft light, fell asleep with a candle burning near her bedroom window. It took hours to heat the fabric sufficiently but the drapes ignited with a whoosh around midnight. Smoke detectors saved Rhonda’s life. Safety tip: Never – ever – leave a burning candle unattended – and yes, sleeping in the same room counts as not paying attention. 

Mischief: Jen, reading in her bedroom one evening, smelled smoke and discovered her five-year-old sister playing with matches in the bathroom. Fortunately, the tissue box suffered only fire damage. Safety tip: Children are often fascinated by fire. Talk to them about fire safety, the danger fires can cause and keep lighters and matches out of reach.

Irons: Pierre, thinking his iron had an automatic off feature, neglected to turn off the device before he left for work. The fire marshal is still investigating exactly how the fire started and spread. The home was a complete loss. Safety tip: Always unplug irons immediately after use.

“Even skilled fire investigators sometimes can’t identify exactly what started a home fire,” Golkin summarizes. “But we do know that homeowners dramatically reduce their risks by learning from the experiences of others and following proven safety tips like these.”

Do you need assistance recovering from a home fire? Call your local Paul Davis office or 800-661-5975 for help.