So many of us now depend on electricity. It cooks our food, powers our appliances and lights our homes. But it can also set our homes alight if we’re not careful.
Electrical fires can be fatal if they aren’t contained properly. That’s why it’s important to know exactly how to extinguish an electrical fire without placing yourself or others in danger.
We’re here to guide you through how to put out an electrical fire.
What Can Cause An Electrical Fire To Start?
There are three contributing factors that can cause an electrical fire: Age, Quality, and Negligence.
Poor or outdated wiring, faulty appliances or devices, and overloaded power sockets or extension leads are the main causes of electrical fires.
Lamps and bulbs can also cause electrical fires. For example, installing a bulb with a wattage that exceeds the lamp's recommended wattage can cause an electrical fire.
Portable heaters are also culprits when it comes to electrical fires because they can sometimes ignite flammable materials nearby, due to their incredible heat.
How To Put Out An Electrical Fire
Boom! Your old extension lead has exploded due to being overloaded, and a small electrical fire has just started. Don’t panic; this is how you put the fire out:
- Turn off the electricity - After you identify the device at fault, unplug it from the wall socket if it’s safe to do so.
If you cannot find the device or if it’s not safe to unplug it, then cut the power at the electrical panel.
- Smother with baking soda - You can smother small fires by pouring sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) on them.
This will suffocate the fire with carbon dioxide and block the oxygen from reaching the flames.
- Cover the flames - Use a lid or heavy cloth or blanket to cover the fire and deprive it of oxygen. This method can only work on small manageable fires.
Should you be unable to smother the fire, you could spray the flames with a fire extinguisher.
What Kind Of Fire Extinguisher Will Stop An Electrical Fire?
Having a fire extinguisher on standby is always beneficial, but you must always check the labeling to see what kind of fires it puts out.
Class B extinguishers are ideal for combating electrical fires. Much like baking soda, these extinguishers discharge carbon dioxide to deprive the fire of oxygen.
However, be careful not to inhale the smog because carbon dioxide is not very good for you.
Do not use a Class A-only extinguisher on an electrical fire, due to it being primarily water-based. Water will only make the situation more dangerous because it conducts electricity.
The majority of residential fire extinguishers are Class ABC, which means they’re multi-purpose and can be used to stop electrical fires. But be sure to check the labeling first.
Electrical Fire Faux Pas - What You Shouldn’t Do
- You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s always worth repeating: You must never pour water on an electrical fire to put it out.
Water is a natural conductor of electricity and will increase the danger area throughout the room. You also risk getting electrocuted to death.
- Do not try to move large items that are lit - Handling material that is lit will only increase the risk of suffering a burn or spreading the blaze. It is best to contain the fire where it is.
- Do not use flour, sugar or baking powder as alternatives to baking soda. Although they may seem similar, they will react very differently.
Flour and baking powder are naturally highly combustible and will make the fire worse. Even mixtures containing them must also be avoided.
What To Do If You Can’t Put Out The Fire
If you are unsuccessful in putting out the fire, then get out! It’s better to keep you and your family safe than to try to fight the fire.
Close the room door and front door behind you when you exit, to contain the fire.
Then when you’ve reached a safe distance from the fire, call 911.
Never re-enter the building until the firefighters have put out the fire.
This is what you should do if an electrical fire in your property becomes uncontrollable.
How To Prevent Electrical Fires In The Future
Age, Quality and Negligence. These were the three main factors we mentioned at the start that cause electrical fires. So addressing these factors will help you prevent any future electrical fires.
Avoid using cables that are torn or devices with frayed wires because the heat from them could escape and burn a combustible carpet or mat.
Regularly inspect electrical devices for any signs of wear or fraying of the cables.
Don’t overload power outlets. These can overheat and combust when overloaded with high-voltage appliances.
Only use bulbs that match or are under the lamp’s recommended bulb wattage.
Switch off your appliances overnight (with the exception of fridges and freezers, etc.)
Recognize the warning signs of electrical failure. This includes unusual buzzing noises, scorch marks on cords and outlets, burning odors, flickering lights, and faulty circuit breakers.
If you identify one or more of these signs, then either replace the appliance or contact an electrician.
Another wise precautionary measure would be to call an electrician to inspect your property, to make sure it meets the electrical safety standards.
The electrician may recommend that you install an AFCI device to detect potential electrical hazards that a standard breaker would miss.
To stop an electrical fire, you should: pull the plug out, smother the flames (preferably with a heavy non-flammable blanket); pour a thick layer of baking soda onto the fire to suffocate it; or use Class B or ABC fire extinguishers to put out the fire.
These latter three methods will deprive the fire of oxygen, which it needs to continue burning.