What is the Fear of Fire?

People with Pyrophobia are Unable to Tolerate Even Well-Controlled Small Fires

Flaming saucepan on gas hob
David Seed Photograph/Getty Images

One of the most common phobias is pyrophobia, or the fear of fire, which stems from an ancient and primal fear.

Since fire is potentially dangerous, a bit of fear is healthy and normal.  So not everyone who fears that a blaze can ignite in their home if they aren't careful suffers from pyrophobia. 

People with pyrophobia are unable to tolerate even well-controlled small fires and often exhibit physical symptoms, like dizziness, when coming in contact with fire.

History of Fire

The word pyrophobia originates from Greek ‘pur/pyr,’ which means fire and ‘phobos’ meaning fear or deep dread.

Our ancestors discovered that, when properly harnessed, fire is extremely helpful. As we do today, they used fire to cook their food and keep themselves warm. But they also lived with a high risk of uncontrolled, dangerous fires. House fires remained a constant danger throughout most of recorded history. Today, modern building codes and new methods of handling fire make disasters significantly less common, but dangerous blazes do break out from time to time.

Effects of Pyrophobia on Individuals

Pyrophobia can have devastating effects on your daily life. The smell of smoke or a burning smell can set off an anxiety attack in a person who suffers from pyrophobia. Pyrophobics may constantly check the stove, boiler and heating elements of their homes. In severe cases, pyrophobia can lead to obsessive compulsive personality disorders.

Someone with pyrophobia may be unable to tolerate candles or campfires. They may develop obsessive-compulsive rituals such as constantly checking the batteries in smoke detectors or checking to ensure that the oven is off. Some people with pyrophobia have a physical reaction, such as stomach cramps or headaches, to the smell of smoke.

Like all phobias, it is best to check with a mental health professional if your pyrophobia begins to limit your activities.

A negative or traumatic experience with fire, such as having to escape a house fire, can trigger pyrophobia  in a person.

Symptoms of Pyrophobia

People with pyrophobia may feel dizzy or queasy whenever they come in contact with fire. It could be as simple as someone lighting a candle or turning on a gas stove.

Someone with severe pyrophobia may also experience loss of breath, nausea, dry mouth or may faint around fire.

Treatment for Pyrophobia

People with intense pyrophobia may need to seek help from a psychotherapist. One common treatment is Exposure Therapy whereby a pyrophobic person is introduced to the fear of fire through illustrations of fires, as well as  examples of real fire, such as a lit match or candle.


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.



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