Surprise: Your Furry Friends Could Be A Fire Hazard

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
A dog leaning on a stove and looking at it.
Chiara Costa/EyeEm/Getty

A lot of our homes are not complete without an animal companion. Having a pet is the norm for many Americans. There are reports that say that as many as 70% of American homes have a pet as part of the family. That is a lot of furry friends. And as lovable and cuddly as our fur babies are, they can sometimes be the source of tragedy. This is the case right now in South Korea, where officials are warning cat owners that the pets could potentially burn down their owner’s home. But how?

In South Korea, it has been reported that more than 100 house fires were started between January 2019 and November 2021. These often occur when the pets inadvertently turn on electric appliances with their paws when their owner isn’t home.

This is not a problem that is exclusive to our South Korean friends; there are plenty of house fires caused by pets in the United States as well. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, “Pets or wild animals have a part in starting about 750 home fires per year. These involve cooking equipment, fireplaces and chimneys, space heaters, lamps, bulbs, wiring, and candles.”

I reached out to the Humane Society Of The United States and asked for some advice to keep our pets and our homes safe from accidental fires. Maxine Young, Companion Animals Program Assistant at the Humane Society of the United States, said that knowing what can potentially attract our pets could help us to keep them safe. She said that the most obvious fire hazards in our homes are open flames. This can be a candle, a gas stove top, an open fireplace, or a fire pit.

“Many pets are naturally curious and might gravitate towards the light of a candle or the heat of a fireplace. If you cook with open flames, monitor where your pet is and ensure they don’t come too close. If going out of the house, consider removing or covering your stove knobs as these can accidentally be turned on by a pet who jumps up. Also, consider covering the burners on your stovetop,” Young suggested.

She also offered some tips like switching your lit candles for the flameless variety and securing the gate to an open fireplace. It is always important to be sure that all flames are extinguished before leaving a pet unattended at home. Another hazard that you may not always think about are exposed wires; animals like to chew on them and could cause a fire.

It is also a great idea to use a baby gate or pet crate to keep your animals away from potentially hazardous situations whether you are home or not. Accidents with things such as a candle can happen in a second if you are not looking. The best way to prevent a tragedy is by taking the proper precaution ahead of time.

What if you have to leave your pet at home? We all do from time to time, and God forbid there is a fire, there are a few things that you can do to help emergency responders to rescue your beloved fur babies. The American Red Cross offers these tips:

  • Keep your pets close to the door when you are away from home or in open areas where a first responder can easily find them
  • Make sure that your pet is wearing their collar so that they may be easily identified and quickly leashed if need be
  • Place a cling on your window that gives pet information for those in your home including number of pets, what kind, and their names to help them be rescued

We all want to keep our families safe in our homes. We extend that protection to the animals that are living in our homes as well. But we cannot forget to educate our children too. Young said that our kids need to realize that pets can cause an accidental fire easily. There must be a family plan in place in case of a fire. The goal is not to frighten children, but to help them to understand the risk and true tragedy that can arise from an accidental house fire.

“The best way to help pets in this situation is to prevent fires from happening in the first place. Practicing the previously mentioned precautions like extinguishing open flames and covering stove knobs can be little actions that make a huge difference in pet safety. Always have a plan in case of an emergency and practice with your family so everyone is aware of how to keep pets safe. We hope you don’t find yourself in these situations, but it never hurts to be prepared,” Young concluded.

When it comes to our animals, taking the proper precautions is crucial to prevent an unwanted and potentially devastating fire accident.

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