Top 5 Most Common Causes of Fires in Commercial Buildings

Posted by Fire Safety Equipment on 7th Nov 2022

Top 5 Most Common Causes of Fires in Commercial Buildings

According to the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), fires caused damage to more than 103,000 non-residential buildings in 2018. Commercial building fires add up to more than $2.6 billion in damages in the United States annually. Even worse, these unfortunate events can threaten you and the people around you.   

Luckily, some commercial building fires may be preventable. Here are the five most common causes of fires in commercial buildings, plus steps you can take to keep your building safe.   

What is a Commercial Building? 

According to the Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association (CCPIA), a commercial building is any structure or parcel dedicated to generating a profit. Types of commercial buildings include:   

  • Manufacturing facilities   
  • Warehouses   
  • Retail stores   
  • Shopping malls   
  • Offices   
  • Medical buildings   
  • Multi-dwelling units (condominiums or residential facilities)  
  • Restaurants   
  • Hotels   

Top Five Causes of Fire in Commercial Buildings   

According to data from NFPA or the National Fire Protection Association, these are the most common causes of fires in commercial structures: 

1. Deliberately Set Fires   

Sadly, we live in a society where malevolent people are widespread. They seek to damage possessions that we hold dear, especially your commercial property. In this case, arson accounts for 10% of office fires and 20% of total property damage.  

Passive fire protection is vital to minimize potential fire damage to your building. Thankfully, you can start simple and install fire-rated access doors that protect your utilities and prevent them from spreading too quickly to other areas. These will give you time to do damage control measures.  

2. Inadequate Extinguishing Equipment   

Data shows that many office fires occur on weekends or non-business hours. Because nobody is around, you cannot detect or take measures to prevent the fire from spreading. An active fire protection system, such as sprinklers, can help prevent damage and fire spread during the building's off-hours.   

3. Faulty or Unattended Cooking Equipment   

Published information from 2013 shows that 29% of all commercial building fires result from faulty cooking equipment. In studies, these accounted for just 6% of property damage compared to other office fire incidents, but their frequency could mean danger to everyone in the building.   

It's important to note that it's not just the office kitchen that can present a danger. Only 22% of office fires begin in the kitchen. Cooking equipment placed elsewhere in the building increases that statistic to more than a quarter of all office fires.   

4. Electrical and Lighting Distribution   

It's no surprise that you rely heavily on electricity and electrical utilities to power most, if not all, of the equipment you have at your establishment. Because of heavy use, something could inevitably go wrong. Faulty electrical equipment, faulty wiring in the building itself, and overuse of electricity in a small area can all contribute to the possibility of an office fire.   

5. Closed Office Spaces   

Enclosed spaces are another place where fire can potentially crop up. Entities such as smoldering matches, leaky gas lines, or even paper trash cans can be sources of fire.   

Data shows that only 2% start in the office building's attic, ceiling, or roof. By contrast, 24% begin in an office room. With this, it's vital to have the proper fire detection and prevention systems in habitation and working spaces to limit fire damage.  

How Can Office Fires Be Prevented?   

There isn't a one-stop-shop solution to prevent every incidence of an office fire. However, with thoughtful planning and regular equipment checks, you may be able to reduce the possibility of a fire in your commercial building. Here are top tips for preventing office fires:   

  • Have any electrical equipment and machinery regularly inspected by a qualified inspector.   
  • Discuss office rules clearly about using electrical equipment, unplugging equipment after use if applicable, and when and where cooking is allowed in the building.   
  • Have emergency fire equipment in easy reach. A quality fire extinguisher is a must. If you have a sizeable building, have at least one on each floor if possible. We suggest you consult your local authorities to see how many fire extinguishers you need for your facility.   
  • Have a firm 'No Smoking' policy in your building. While we understand that certain restaurants or private clubs may allow smoking, no smoking should be necessary if you want to reduce your chances of a spontaneous commercial building fire.   
  • Have adequate sprinklers installed and regularly inspected.   
  • To make your building the safest, invest in a Fire Extinguisher Cabinet to ensure your fire mitigation equipment is visible and accessible.

While the above list of prevention measures is not exhaustive, these basics can help you prevent a tragedy. Preparing is always your best strategy, so equip your office with the best fire extinguishers.   

Want to find out more? See what other fire safety designs you can integrate into your building!  

Defend Your Building with Fire Safety Equipment!  

Having the right access doors for your application is crucial to ensure your utilities function correctly and prevent damage from the elements. With Fire Safety Equipment, you can rely on our extensive experience to provide you with only quality access panel selections and other pieces of equipment to keep you safe. Want to find out more? Check here for our list of top-rated fire extinguishers for your commercial building.

Should you have any questions, our product experts are available 24/7 at (855) 916-3473. You can also request a quote on our website today to learn more about our pricing options.