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I was just about to dig myself a new basement to my wooden-home, when I suddenly figured that the ceiling was on fire (long story short, not even the cockroaches survived). The only thing I did was to place a torch underneath a wooden block, as I've done many times before without so devastating effects.

So I wonder, can torches ignite fires? If yes, always or only under certain conditions?

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There's been an update recently, perhaps something changed in that. Not been able to find anything concrete though. – ChrisF Nov 25 '10 at 14:52
I once had the wrong slot selected and right-clicked with flint and steel out instead of torch. If you're going quickly with the sound off it's possible to do this and not notice, as the fire will create light much like a torch. – Joe Dovahkiin Nov 26 '10 at 21:09
If torches can't let things go on fire, then what could make your house burn? – Jim Jones Oct 29 '15 at 1:18
up vote 18 down vote accepted

Torches can't cause a fire.

  • Are there burned trees in the neighbourhood? A forest fire might be the cause.
  • Did you hear a loud "flinging" sound? You could've been unlucky enough to have a ghast around.
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Seems like you're right. While I was extinguishing the fires in my tower another one started at the exact same location (and no torch or any creature around). I think it has something to do with my pillow of Lava which I keep two blocks lower behind rock...which would be quiet strange, but it is the only source of fire around there anymore... Thank you. – Bobby Nov 25 '10 at 17:01
@Bobby: Aw, badp didn't even so much as mention lava. I feel a little neglected... (not really ;-)). Just be aware that lava can burn things that are diagonally in touch with it just as easily as having a side touching it. – Kurley Nov 26 '10 at 10:53
@Kurly I know, but I've already upvoted you :( – badp Nov 26 '10 at 11:34
Oh my gawd are you suggesting that ghasts can spawn in the overworld? – Sadly Not Mar 16 '11 at 16:12
@Sadly Yes. It's rare, you need a portal, you need enough space around the portal, but then it's possible. – badp Mar 16 '11 at 16:29

According to Minepedia:

Fire is a block that was first seen in Indev. It has an animated face on all four sides, and two faces on the inside at slants. Fire is not created naturally in a map, with the exception being in The Nether, it will only be created if the player or a Ghast causes it or Lava burns a flammable object.

At no point does the minepedia describe a torch causing a fire, suggesting that no one else has seen this happen.

Could it be that your roof is near to a lava flow? Or, you've accidentally used a flint and steel on the wood?

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No, torches cannot start a fire. Period.

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Lava can ignite things up to 2m away (see the Lava page on the wiki), which would be 2 blocks away... so even if you have the following (side view):

.=....   ( KEY:   = wood  )
......   (        . air   )
~~~~#=   (        ~ lava  )
         (        # stone )

Both sections of wood (above, and on the other side of the stone) could possibly catch fire.

I haven't personally tested this, and will edit with more details once I get a chance to test it, but this could be your problem.

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The answer to your question is no. As to how the fire started...

If your house is in the normal world:

  1. Lightning
  2. Flint and steel e.g.fireplace

In the nether:

  1. Ghast
  2. Close to lava or fire
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