What Causes Electrical Fires?
The US Fire Administration reports that approximately 24,000 electrical fires occur annually. Of all the residential fires, electrical fires account for 6.3 percent of them. Preventing an electrical fire requires the knowledge of how it originates as well as taking steps to properly maintain all electrical components.
What is an electrical fire?
Electrical components, such as cables, wires and circuit breakers, inside electrical equipment can malfunction or fail, leading to an outbreak of fire. Electrical panels from overloaded circuits (a result of inadequate distribution of electricity) and aged panels can also spark electrical fires.
What are the causes of electrical fires?
Property owners should know what could potentially cause electrical fires in efforts to prevent them. Electrical fires are most commonly caused by poor maintenance. Electrical panels require regular maintenance in order to continue to function at an optimal, and safe, level.
- Wiring kinks. Remove dust and dirt regularly from electrical panels. Inspect circuit breakers and replace faulty ones. Heat is created when kinks in wiring cause electrical resistance; this can lead to an electrical fire. Frayed wires and extension cords and damaged phone chargers are also common sources of electrical fires.
- Old appliances. Appliances and equipment that have stood the test of time may appear to be a convenience, but they are also potential causes of electrical fires. Property owners reduce their risk of an electrical fire by replacing outdated or faulty circuits in electrical panels, appliances, and equipment.
- Aged wiring. Older properties often feature aged wiring that fails to support current demands. Wires with worn coating can spark an electrical fire, especially if the wire no longer matches the circuit amperage. Wiring that is free from flaws can help prevent an electrical fire.
- Old circuit breakers and electrical panels. Ensuring the circuit breakers and electrical panels are up to date helps to reduce their failure rate. As mentioned, failed circuit breakers can damage appliances and equipment on the circuit. They also increase the risk of an electrical fire. Replace outdated or damaged circuits as a precautionary measure.
What are clear signs of an electrical fire?
Knowing the signs of an electrical fire is key to protecting a property. A persistent burning smell emanating from an unknown source can be a signal that an electrical fire is present. An intensely strong odor or seeing smoke should prompt property owners to immediately evacuate and call 911.
- Breakers that trip on a regular basis are warning signs that a trip to the electrical panel has occurred. While occasional tripping is normal, pay attention when it happens frequently. Breakers that trip often may be caused by any one of numerous factors.
- A breaker may trip to prevent becoming overheated. Usually, this happens when the circuit is overloaded. Avoiding straining the circuits is key to resolving scenarios where breakers trip often. Property owners are advised to shift appliances around to keep the problem from reoccurring.
- Faulty wiring can cause a circuit to short. Live or hot wires touching a neutral wire are the culprits, and they can generate strong currents that overheat the circuit. Short circuits are far more dangerous than overloaded circuits and require a professional inspection.
- Breakers may trip as a result of ground faults. A hot wire that touches a bare copper wire in close proximity to a metal outlet box can lead to ground faults and put properties at risk for fires. These faults are most common in moisture-rich areas, like bathrooms and kitchens.
- Tripped breakers are intended to protect the property. Only when breakers trip repeatedly do they pose as a high risk, because they may eventually stop tripping. If the breakers ultimately stop tripping, the circuit will overheat and cause a nasty electrical fire.
- Switches that show discoloration or outlets that suddenly stop working can be problematic. Charring or discoloration are warnings that an electrical spark has already affected the outlet or switch. Additionally, if the plates covering the outlets are hot, the wires and connectors may be overheating.
What are concealed signs of electrical fire?
- Deteriorated wires can lead to an electrical fire. Damaged wiring can be a result of animals chewing on them, wear and tear on surrounding insulation or frayed connections. Although good copper wiring can last 100 years, most often, aged wiring with weakened insulation is a hazardous combination.
- While dimmer switches have their practical purposes, lights that dim without a dimmer point to an overloaded circuit, faulty wiring or problems with the power supply. Lights may occasionally dim due to high power use, while not posing as an issue. But unexplainable dimmed lights are a fire hazard.
- Incorrectly used power bars or extension cords can lead to an electrical fire. Each outlet is built to handle a predetermined level of output. Wiring can undergo severe damage by the sheer draw of excessive power through the bars, strips and extension cords.
How do you extinguish an electrical fire?
Shut off the electricity to the fire source, or, if necessary, disconnect the electricity to the home. A small fire may be squashed by tossing baking soda over the flames. Never attempt to extinguish an electrical fire with water, as doing so can lead to a powerful shock.
Professional Fire Damage Restoration
An electrical fire can be enormously destructive. It is important that property owners check their wiring every four years as a preventative step. In the event an electrical fire still breaks out, call a fire damage restoration pro, like ServiceMaster EMT, once the flames are extinguished.
Trained technicians from ServiceMaster EMT arrive quickly to begin the fire damage restoration process. We start with an emergency pre-cleaning to halt the spread of smoke and soot damage. Specialists clean soot and smoke from the carpets, upholstery, walls and ceilings. We also perform odor removal services.
While ServiceMaster EMT technicians will restore your property after fire damage, we are also skilled in water damage restoration. Water from fire hoses can result in ruined property.