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Fire safety tips – don’t burn down the house!

Several years ago we got a call at 4 am from the answering service. My wife answers, says yes, yes, then yells “Oh my god”, and hands the phone saying it’s for me. Yes, one of our managed properties in Issaquah was burning to the ground. Thankfully all the smoke detectors worked and no one was hurt. But the house was a total loss. Two fire inspectors came out, one from the city and the other from the insurance company. I couldn’t have been less impressed with the city guy who reminded me of a young Mr. Magoo. But the insurance guy was a retired fire inspector and obviously knew his stuff inside and out. Of course, the city guy didn’t have a clue as to the cause, but the insurance guy actually spoke to the tenants, one of whom mentioned that she discarded her cigarettes in the area where they thought the fire started. Although they didn’t have a definitive cause the assumption was that it was due to an improperly discarded cigarette. So if you every encounter this issue make sure you call the insurance company ASAP.

According to National Underwriter Property & Casualty, these are the leading causes of house fires:


From 2007-2011, the NFPA says there were an average of 10,630 fires in the U.S. that were started by candles, causing 115 deaths, 903 injuries and approximately $418 million in property damage. That is an average of 29 candle fires per day. About one-third of these fires started in bedrooms, causing 39% of the associated deaths and 45% of the associated injuries. More than half of all candle fires start because of candles that were left too close to flammable items. They should always be kept at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.

  • Never leave a candle burning near flammable items.

  • Never leave a candle burning in a child’s or an unoccupied room.

  • Ensure candles fit securely into candle holders so they won’t tip over.

  • Blow out any candles before leaving a room or going to sleep.


While the number of fires caused by smoking is trending downward, the NFPA found that there were still an average of 17,600 related fires per year resulting in 490 deaths and more than $516 million in property damage.

  • If you smoke, consider smoking outside.

  • Use wide, sturdy ashtrays to catch butts and ashes.

  • Look for cigarette butts under furniture and between seat cushions to make sure no lit butts have fallen someplace where they can’t be seen.

  • Don’t smoke in bed, when you’re tired or around medical oxygen.

Clothes dryers:

Clothes dryer fires happen more often than one might think, accounting for 16,800 home structure fires in 2010 and doing more than $236 million in property damage. The most frequent causes of fires in dryers are lint/dust (29%) and clothing (28%). In washers, they are wire or cable insulation (26%), the appliance housing (21%) or the drive belt (15%). Dryers were involved in 92% of these appliance fires and the risk of fire was basically the same for both gas and electric-powered dryers.

  • Clean the lint screen frequently and don’t run the dryer without it.

  • For gas and propane dryers, make sure there aren’t any leaks in the lines.

  • Vent the dryer to the outside of the house and ensure nothing blocks the vent pipe.

  • Clean the vent pipe and the area where the screen is housed.

  • Keep the area around the dryer free of combustible materials.

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