4 Habits You Didn't Realize Were Fire Hazards

There are many well-known potential fire hazards in the home: candles, hair dryers, and leaving the stove unattended are just of a few things that can bring on a blaze.

But there might be more risks in your home and daily routine than you think. Here are some surprising everyday appliances and habits that could put you at risk of a fire.

1. Your phone

The NYPD 33rd Precinct recently warned people, in a viral tweet, not to leave their phones under a pillow when sleeping or charging the device overnight, as the phone can overheat:

This wasn't an isolated incident, either. In summer 2014, a teenager in Texas woke up to a "smoldering cell phone on the other side of her pillow," reported local news station FOX 4 News. She told FOX 4 News that the phone, which was a Samsung Galaxy S4, got under the pillow while she slept and started burning in the middle of the night. The teen woke up to the smell of burning.

Though Samsung agreed to replace the phone, bedding, mattress, and pillow, the company also pointed out to FOX 4 News that its user guide warns people that placing these devices on bedding can cause a fire. The company also pointed out that the young woman's phone had a replacement battery and not a Samsung part.

Regardless, it's probably best not to sleep with your phone.

2. Connecting extension cords to each other

Harry J. Oster, a senior fire and life safety specialist at Columbia University, warned in a university newsletter not to "daisy chain" your power strips, which is connecting one strip into another.

"Connecting cords overloads them, which can cause a short circuit that can result in a fire," Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), told Good Housekeeping in an interview. "If you need more outlets, seek a qualified electrician to install some."

3. Messy kitchens


As the NFPA noted in a piece about the dangers of hoarding, "clutter interferes with basic activities such as cooking, cleaning, and even sleeping in a bed." But even if you're not a hoarder, you still put yourself at risk of a fire by cooking in a messy kitchen. A 2012 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) found that kitchens were the number one place where fires started in the home, and cooking equipment was the top cause for fires.

"Paper towels, pot holders, recipe cards: They're all sitting near your stovetop, ready to ignite," Mary Kate Frank wrote in a piece for This Old House magazine. "Keep a 3-foot zone between combustible materials and the burners. And, of course, never leave cooking unattended."

4. Space heaters

Space heater

In 2010, the NFPA reported that half of home heating fires occurred in December, January, and February from 2003 to 2007. In 2014, the NFPA reported that space heaters account for 80 percent of winter heating fire deaths and a third of winter heater fires. 

Mike Allendorf, a fire marshal, told USA Today that space heater danger can arise because people let their guard down around them. Someone might throw clothing or other items too close to the space heater and it can cause a fire, he said. He also said many people tend to keep space heaters on at night while they sleep and that this habit creates a very high mortality rate with the household appliances.

"Half of fatal home space heater fires started because something was too close to the heater and ignited," Carli said in a press release. "Keep heaters and things that can burn at least three feet apart. Heating fires and the deaths they cause can usually be prevented with awareness and a few simple actions.”

Avoiding these common habits can keep you safe and fire-free in your home.