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Secret life of pets? Increase in fires caused by pets left home alone

Dec. 10, 2023 - 13:40 By Yoon Min-sik
A dog is seen on a walk in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, Nov.28. (Yonhap)

On Dec. 4, a fire broke out at a home in a residential-commercial complex in Jungnang-gu, eastern Seoul, killing a poodle that was home alone at the time. Fire authorities provisionally concluded that the fire was caused by the dog, who is thought to have inadvertently turned on the electric stove.

The incident was the second fire in a week thought to be caused by a pet left home alone. The first fire was reportedly caused by a cat that accidentally turned on an electric stove in Geumcheon-gu, Seoul.

The recent fires have sparked concern over the rising number of such accidents in recent years.

According to the National Fire Agency, there were 157 cases last year in which the pet of a household caused a fire, up from 103 in 2020. From 2020 to 2022, pets are believed to have been responsible for 387 fires across the country, causing around 1.4 billion won ($1 million) in property damage.

Most of the fires were started when the pets turned on household appliances while staying at home alone.

In May of 2021, Jeju Fire Safety Headquarters held an experiment to test if pets could accidentally turn on household appliances that can cause fire, after finding that three fires that occurred in the area seemed to have all been caused by fans.

The test proved that a touch-based electric stove could easily be activated by a pet, and that it was also possible for a pet to accidentally turn the knob on a gas stove. Officials urged pet owners to take special care when leaving their animals home alone.

Fires caused by pets are becoming a concern in a country that has seen a steady increase in the number of single-person households. A November report by Statistics Korea showed that the number of one-person households among those aged 19-34 went from 6.6 percent in 2000 to 20.1 percent in 2020.