Residential Fires: Primary Causes & Technological Solutions

The NFPA gives specifics on some of the primary causes of residential fires? Technologies are also being developed to reduce death rates associated with residential fires.

Primary Causes of Residential Fires

The primary causes of residential fires are fires that start from cooking or from the kitchen, as well as smoking. In the case of cooking fires or fires from the kitchen, the flames and heating appliances that people use for cooking or heating their food pose a fire hazard that can lead to residential fires.

A stove that is left unattended can lead to the burning of food and eventual combustion on the charred food. Such combustion of food can lead to flames that can reach kitchen cabinets or other flammable parts of the kitchen. Also, the use of heaters, such as water heaters, poses the risk of overheating to the point of drying cooking utensils and burning of these utensils.

Thus, the kitchen is the most common place of origin of residential fires. Thus, focus and emphasis has increased on the prevention of fires that come from kitchens, as manufacturers of kitchen appliances and kitchen construction shifted towards the use of materials and design that reduce the probabilities of kitchen fires.

In terms of smoking, tobacco smoking can start fires, especially in areas of the house that have a considerable amount of flammable or combustible items, such as the linens and rubber foams in the bedroom and family room. Burning cigarettes could get misplaced and get in contact with such flammable or combustible materials. Some people may fall asleep with a lighted cigarette in their hands. These scenarios present serious risks of fires from smoking.

Technological Solutions to Reduce Deaths from Residential Fires

An important consideration is that the lack of appropriate alarm systems to indicate the presence of smoke. This means that the lack of detectors or the inadequacy of detectors in homes lead to the increased rate of residential fires and the increased rate of fire deaths. Thus, smoke detection technologies have been developed to reduce the death rate in residential fires, as a way of preventing fires in the first place. Water sprinkler systems are used in residential buildings. Moreover, fire resistant technologies focus on the use of fire resistant materials for kitchen appliances. These fire resistant materials come in the form of fire resistant wires and cables, fire resistant plastics, and fire resistant polymer coatings. The result of using these technologies is a home that is less prone to residential fires.


  • Higgins, E., Taylor, M., Jones, M., & Lisboa, P. J. G. (2013). Understanding community fire risk: A spatial model for targeting fire prevention activities. Fire Safety Journal62, 20-29.
  • National Fire Protection Association (2014). The US Fire Problem: US Home Structure Fires. [Opens in New Window]

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