The Very Real Danger of Electrical Fires

Electricity makes our lives easier, more comfortable, and enjoyable, but it also poses risks. An electrical fire is one type of hazard that comes with the widespread use of electricity. They can cause severe damage to property and pose a real threat to the property’s occupants be it a home with a family living inside or a business with staff and customers. It is bad enough to have a fire in your home or business, but an electrical fire can pose an entirely different level of danger. On average, an electrical fire can kill 310 people every year and seriously injure 1,100 more in the USA. The cause of electrical fires is usually malfunctioning electrical. NEVER throw water on an electrical fire. Water conducts electricity and you could get electrocuted. So, what really causes an electrical fire? 

What Causes Most Electrical Fires?

December and January are the most dangerous months for electrical fires because of the increased use of electricity for heating, electricity-powered appliances, and electricity-powered lighting. Bedrooms are the most commonplace for residential electrical fires, but the majority of deaths occur from those that are ignited in living rooms or family rooms. Electrical fires can be generated from any number of causes, such as the following;

Old Wiring

A typical electrical system lasts 30 to 40 years. However, more than 30%, or some ~42 million houses, are more than 50 years old. Warning signs of inadequate power include circuit breakers that trip or a fuse that blows repeatedly, and an over-reliance on extension cords.

Old or Faulty Outlets and Switches

Over time, switches and outlets wear out. With daily use, they usually last about 15 years. With switches, the switching mechanism wears out and won’t stay on or off. In outlets, the pressure plates inside the outlet won’t hold plugs firmly in the wall. Over time, the wiring in both switches and outlets can loosen. These three conditions can lead to electrical arcs. Arcing occurs when electricity jumps from one circuit to another, creating a spark. This poses a potential fire hazard.

New Appliance Setup

When setting up a new appliance on your own without the assistance of a professional electrician, you should check all the connections. Read the instruction manual thoroughly and completely before you proceed. Some electrical appliances require a voltage regulator, and should not be plugged directly into a socket. You should make sure you know these specific requirements in advance.

Misused Extension Cords

An extension cord is a perfect solution when you need small amounts of temporary electrical power in an area without access to a wall outlet, such as an outdoor space. However, many aren’t aware that there are certain parameters around extension cord use. When extension cords are not used correctly, they can easily overheat and cause electrical fires; in addition, the devices and appliances plugged into extension cords can become fried if not properly maintained. To prevent electric fires from extension cords, make sure that the extension cord’s capacity matches that of the appliance/s you are using. You should not exceed the extension cord capacity with the combined wattage of all connected devices. Also, it shouldn’t be cracked or broken. Older extension cords can expose wires as they begin to come apart. Electrical fires can result from exposed wires anywhere. All cords and plugs that are frayed or worn out should be discarded. This is a very important fact to remember. And it’s not common knowledge. Be cautious!

Light Bulbs

There are some light bulbs that will not work with certain fixtures. For example, some fixtures use incandescent bulbs while others use fluorescent bulbs. If you’re not sure which type of bulb will work where. Consult the instructions provided by the manufacturer to determine the right one. In order to prevent an electrical fire, use light bulbs with sockets whose wattage matches their label.

Power Cords

The surge protector or power strip cord can also be used as an electrical extension. These devices typically have six or more outlets and the main cord that plugs into a wall outlet. You can use these when you want to use multiple electronic devices in one common area such as a home office, kitchen, or living room. However, these electrical outlets should always be treated with caution. The most important rule is never to “piggyback” one power strip onto another. Fires can easily start, your circuit breakers can be impacted, or worse, electric shocks may occur. Considering that electrical cords are a leading cause of house fires, making sure they are safely plugged in a spaced-out power strip is a good idea.

Portable Heaters

In the winter, place your space heaters accordingly, and don’t leave them on for an extended period, especially when you are sleeping or have left the house. Fires are most likely to occur when portable heaters are placed near curtains, carpets, rugs, beds, and couches. If you do use space heaters, use the radiator-type that diffuses heat over the entire surface of the appliance. These have less of a chance of setting off flammable items, but should still be kept away from them.

Placing Flammable Materials Near Bulbs or Lampshades

You should never leave flammable materials such as paper or cloth near a functioning light bulb or light fixture, as this can cause an electrical fire. Additionally, though lampshades are usually several inches away from lightbulbs, they can still become very hot after a lamp is left on for an extended period of time. It is particularly likely to happen if the lightbulb inside the lamp has a higher wattage than is recommended for the fixture. To avoid an electrical fire caused by your light fixtures, make sure that your lamps and other lighting devices are plugged into outlets with the right wattage. If your light fixtures are flickering or failing to stay lit, contact an expert to determine whether there are any potential outlet or wiring problems.

Counterfeit Electrical Products

You’ve probably seen vendors at flea markets hawking extension cords, power strips, night lights, batteries, and even circuit breakers for ridiculously low prices for a reason. Most likely, these are counterfeits, and they are extremely dangerous. If you purchase electrical products, be sure to purchase them only from reputable retailers who accept returns. Always look for Underwriters Laboratories certification, too. UL places its logo on low-cost items that are ripe for counterfeits using a holographic label that is more difficult to copy.

How To Prevent an Electrical Fire?

You can take steps to prevent electrical fires in your home by regularly inspecting the electrical system of your home including appliances and wiring, replacing any electrical components that are worn out or not functioning properly, keeping clothes, curtains, and other flammable materials a safe distance from heaters, and not overloading wall sockets or extension cords. It is also important to have proper wiring. When an appliance has a three-pronged plug, do not force it into a socket with only two holes and try to snap off the third prong. That thor prog is there for a reason, to ground the electricity. Do not use an extension cord with it either. In the event that a light switch feels hot to the touch or if the lights flicker unsteadily, they should be replaced professionally. To be safe in case of a fire, you should ensure your fire alarms are working properly and that you have an escape route that includes a meeting place outside so that you know everyone is accounted for.

Safety Tips 

No matter how hard you try, a fire can still happen. The following tips will help you ensure your family is prepared in the event of an emergency:
  • You should install smoke alarms in each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home.
  • Every month, test smoke alarms by pressing the TEST button.
  • Create a fire escape plan for your family that includes two exits from each room.
  • Select an easy-to-find meeting place in the open, safely away from your home.
  • Have at least two fire drills a year to practice your escape plan. One should be done at night when your family is sleeping.
  • Consider installing a smoke alarm with a flashing light or vibration that can alert you to a fire emergency if you or someone in your household is deaf.

What Should I Do in the Event of an Electrical Fire?

When an electrical fire occurs, call the fire department immediately. If you are able to reach the main breakers without putting yourself in danger, you should shut off the power to the property. Before you attempt this, make sure your hands are not wet and the fire is not actually close to the breaker box. Priority is given, however, to your safety. Do not attempt to turn off electricity or put out a fire at the risk of endangering yourself. A class C or ABC all-purpose fire extinguisher can be used to extinguish small electrical fires. No other type of extinguisher will work on these types of fires, so don’t guess what kind you have if you don’t know. Get out of the house and call the fire department. Whenever you experience fire damage, you should always contact a local, certified fire damage restoration company. Using their training, experience, and tools, they can clean up after the fire and restore your home to its pre-loss condition.


Electrical fires can be dangerous, and it is always better to stay alert and take preventative measures to prevent them. You should call an electrician if you have any concerns about your electrical system. An electrical safety inspection should be completed before it becomes a serious hazard.

Need an Elelectrician? Call Us Today!

We provide our electrical services to Long Island and the five boroughs. Click through to read more about each location.

Bayport – Deer Park – Huntington – Massapequa – Patchogue – Riverhead – UniondaleWest HempsteadQueens – HauppaugeBrentwoodBridgehamptonEast HamptonEastportElmontFarmingvilleHampton BaysHicksvilleLevittownOceansidePort Jefferson StationRocky PointSag HarborSetauket-East SetauketShirleyWestburyGlen CoveManhassetPort Washington NorthQuogue

Click to Call