Fire Caused by… Bathroom Exhaust Fan?
There are a plethora of things that can start fires. Unattended stoves? Absolutely. Candles left burning? Of course. But bathroom exhaust fans?
At the beginning of November, a fire that started on the first floor of a Pennsylvania home wound up doing significant damage to the house, all thanks to the bathroom’s exhaust fan. Even scarier, the tenant used a fire extinguisher to put the flames out, which he thought he’d done, but later found that he hadn’t.
The fire actually burned through the ceiling on the second floor, destroying a large portion of the roof and dropping debris into the bathrooms on that level. According to Fire Chief George Biggs Jr., the upper floor was “pretty much gutted.”
The incident also caused smoke and water damage, making the home unlivable for the time being.
The tenant “thought he had it knocked down,” said Biggs, yet “It got away from him.”
Fortunately, the fire was under control about an hour after it was reported and no one was hurt.
Fires caused by bathroom exhaust fans are rare, but they do happen. The National Fire Protection Association reports that in 2010, air conditioning, fans, and related equipment were involved in about 7,400 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 29 civilian deaths, 249 civilian injuries and $207 million in direct property damage.
The leading ignition factors for these types of fires are mostly mechanical or electrical failures. About 33% of fires involving air conditioning, fans, or related equipment began when wire or cable insulation ignited.
What’s most interesting, though, is that the leading area of origin for this type of home fire is the bathroom. In fact, 23% — nearly one in four — fires involving air conditioning or related equipment ignited there. That being said, the leading areas of origin for fatal fires are the living room and wall assembly or concealed wall space.
The point here is that your bathroom exhaust fan may not be as safe as you think it is. To calculate the minimum size bathroom exhaust fan you need, you must take the volume of your room and divide it by five. Once the proper size fan has been installed, it needs to be kept clean and well maintained, as dust and lint accumulations can lead to fire hazards.