Electrical fires start for a variety of reasons. Faulty wiring, badly-made products, overloaded circuits and frayed extension cords all play a part in contributing to the causes of electrical fires. Here’s an overview of some of the common causes of electrical fires—and how to put one out.
What Causes an Electrical Fire?
Counterfeit products are found in a surprisingly large number of legitimate stores. These products are knock-offs of brand-name products that are sold under the brand illegally—and often the stores themselves aren’t aware there are counterfeits on their shelves. The bad news is that counterfeit products are often not equipped to comply with even the most basic safety standards. Bad wiring in these products can easily cause electrical fires.
Overloaded electrical outlets can also be a common cause of electrical fires. Even legitimate products, especially those that are designed to use lots of power and put out lots of heat, such as hair dryers and space heaters, can easily overload a circuit. Particularly if the circuit breaker is faulty, this can easily cause the product itself to catch fire.
Faulty wiring in the walls is also a common cause of electrical fires. When an electrical current passes through wiring, it generates heat. This heat can cause the wiring located behind a house’s walls to contract and expand, which eventually loosens the wires. When the wires are loose, the electricity passing within them can arc out, producing heat in excess of 900 degrees Celsius. Especially in dry weather, this can ignite wooden beams and supports in a flash.
Frayed extension cords can start residential fires as well. Make sure you don’t overuse your extension cords. If you’re using one every day to plug in an appliance for several weeks, call an electrician to have a new wall socket installed instead. Don’t run extension cords beneath rugs or behind furniture—it may be walked on in a high-traffic area, and it’s also to tell if it’s overheating until after a fire has started.
What to Do In Case of an Electrical Fire
If you start to see smoke coming out of your wall socket, chances are a fire has already ignited behind your walls. Don’t think you’ve turned off the problem if you’ve turned off the power; you may have cut the cause of the fire, but the fire itself is probably still burning.
Putting out electrical fires can also be difficult. Water will cause electrocution rather than putting out a fire, and chemical powders used to repress other types of fires may cause an electrical fire to smoulder and flare up again. Class C fire extinguishers will extinguish electrical fires, so grab one if it’s close by—it’s definitely critical to make sure an ABC-class fire extinguisher is easily accessible on each floor of your house. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher handy, turn off your electrical power, evacuate your home, and call the fire brigade.
Electrical fires can be highly dangerous—and they’re very common causes of residential fires. However, they can be prevented. Be careful not to overload any sockets, power strips or extension cords. Make sure extension cords aren’t left in high-traffic areas and are not used for more than a few weeks on a regular basis. With these tips, you should be able to keep your home relatively safe from electrical fires.