Most Common Causes of Fire in Commercial Buildings

 In commercial security

Every year, there are as many as 75,000 commercial building fires in the United States. Though some are small and cause relatively little harm, many others pose a great risk to life and property. Commercial fires can cause millions of dollars in damages and, more importantly, they put employees at risk. Fortunately, many fires can be prevented if you’re aware of the potential hazards. Here are several of the most common causes of commercial building fires.

Faulty Electrical Equipment

Both in the home and in commercial buildings, faulty electrical equipment represents a substantial risk. In commercial fires, the most common culprit is frayed or damaged wiring. Extension cords are frequently subject to wear and tear, and an exposed wire can quickly spark a serious blaze. Old or poorly installed interior wiring is also a common source of ignition. This is especially a problem in older structures whose wiring may be outdated or not properly maintained. Electrical appliances can also cause fire if improperly used. Coffee makers can be particularly risky if left on for a long period of time, though an automatic shut-off feature can minimize the risk.

Human Error

While some hazards are quite clear and straightforward, the human factor is difficult to quantify. Whether through accident or negligence, many fires begin directly through the actions of humans. This could include something as seemingly innocuous as a coffee maker left on for too long, or something more dangerous like an errant cigarette tossed in a trash bin. As such, all employees should be thoroughly educated in fire safety and prevention techniques as well as the proper use of fire extinguishers. There’s no guarantee when it comes to the actions of people, but basic education can make a difference.


A more sinister human cause of fire is arson, and it’s more common than you might realize. Whether it’s a disgruntled employee or a mischievous youth, a purposely started fire is among the most dangerous hazards to commercial buildings. While it may not be possible to completely prevent arson, appropriate security measures can do a lot to mitigate the risks. This is especially important in commercial venues at which flammable or explosive materials may be stored. Another common target for an arsonist is an outside dumpster or other flammable trash pile.


It takes a lot of energy to heat a commercial building, and unfortunately that energy can pose a serious risk of fire. As with electrical fires, the most common causes of heating fires are faulty equipment and inadequate maintenance. Regardless of the heating source used, all equipment should be regularly inspected and well-maintained. A room containing heating equipment should be kept clear and never used for storage of papers or other potentially flammable material. This also applies to boilers, water heaters and other equipment that could pose a risk of fire.

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