Close your eyes and imagine an electrical fire suddenly sparking to life in your home—the pungent odour of electrical burn, flickering lights, and flames greedily consuming wires and appliances. Now imagine the terror and helplessness you’d feel, unsure how to extinguish the fire safely. This scene is alarming for many homeowners when electrical fires strike their houses yearly.

As an experienced electrician, I know firsthand how dangerous these fires can be if not adequately prevented and addressed. This article provides homeowners like yourself with expert advice on stopping electrical fires before they start and extinguishing them safely if they do occur.

You’ll learn the top causes of electrical fires, prevention tips from a professional, what never to do, and a step-by-step guide to putting out a blaze from faulty wiring or overburdened circuits. With this knowledge, you can protect your family and home from the hazards of electrical fires.

Causes of Electrical Fires

Electrical fires often result from some electrical failure or faulty equipment. Overloaded electrical systems are a primary culprit, as are inadequate or outdated wiring that cannot safely handle all our modern electrical devices and appliances. Specifically, some of the top causes of electrical fires that homeowners should be aware of are:

  • Faulty electrical wiring that is frayed, damaged, or incorrectly installed
  • An electrical system that is overloaded with too many plugged-in appliances and devices
  • Faulty cords, damaged power boards, and loose or improperly wired outlets
  • Incorrect wattage light bulbs that overheat
  • Faulty electrical equipment like heating units and air conditioners
  • The build-up of dust and debris on electrical equipment
  • Extension cords that are daisy chained or running undersized loads


In many cases, warning signs precede electrical fires. Homeowners should be vigilant for flickering or dimming lights, buzzing from outlets or devices, discoloured burn marks around outlets, and the distinct electrical burning smell. Acting quickly on these warnings and identifying the cause can prevent a minor electrical fault from turning into a house fire. Regular inspections and maintenance of electrical systems are vital to avoiding overloaded circuits and equipment failures that often cause these dangerous fires.

Preventing Electrical Fires

Preventing an electrical fire in your home starts with being proactive about inspection and maintenance. I recommend homeowners have a licensed electrician conduct an annual review of their electrical system. The electrician can spot any faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, or equipment needing replacement – and make fixes before a fire breaks out.

It’s also wise to periodically check light bulb wattages and ensure none are higher than the recommended wattage for the light fixture. Higher-wattage bulbs can overheat and start fires. Take simple steps like turning off appliances when not in use, not overloading outlets with too many plugs, and upgrading any deteriorated or insufficient wiring for your home’s needs.

Stay vigilant for any early warning signs of an electrical fault, like flickering lights, odd smells, and outlets or appliances that are warm to the touch or make buzzing noises. Address these immediately by unplugging the device and having an electrician inspect it. If a fire occurs, smoke alarms, surge protectors, and ABC fire extinguishers rated for electrical fires should be installed in the home.


To prevent accidental electrocution, ensure any electrical panels have a safety cover, wires are not exposed, and water sources like sinks and showers are far from outlets. Use GFCI outlets near wet areas of the home. Keep appliances away from water sources, which can cause dangerous shorts.

By taking measures like these to get ahead of electrical issues, inspecting and updating wiring, not overloading circuits, and using safety devices, you significantly reduce the chances of an electrical fire. An ounce of fire prevention is worth a pound of extinguishing a full-blown electrical blaze. Contact a qualified electrician today to schedule a preventative inspection and maintenance of your home’s electrical system.

What NOT to Do If an Electrical Fire Starts

Feeling panic when a fire breaks out in your home is natural, but try to remain calm and think clearly. Specific actions can make an electrical fire much more hazardous. The number one thing homeowners should never do is try to use water from sources like a garden hose or bucket to douse an electrical fire. Water conducts electricity and can cause electrocution or make the fire spread further. Likewise, it would be best never to touch burning electrical appliances, outlets, or live wires with bare hands, as this risks severe electrical shock.

Other things not to do are open windows or doors that feed oxygen to the flames and not turn ceiling fans on. Fans can pull smoke through the house and spread the fire faster. Never try to extinguish the fire alone if it is rapidly spreading beyond a small area, and do not attempt to turn electricity back on or unplug devices once flames have ignited. The safest bet is to evacuate immediately and call emergency services if an electrical fire is large, uncontained, or threatens lives. With smaller fires, carefully follow the tips above on properly extinguishing an electrical blaze.

How to Extinguish an Electrical Fire

If an electrical fire does break out in your home, follow these crucial steps to extinguish it safely:

  • Immediately turn off the power at the main electrical panel to remove the electricity fueling the flames.
  • Unplug the specific appliance, device or outlet to isolate the source.
  • Baking soda can smother the flames for small fires limited to a cord or outlet. Keep boxes around electrical panels.
  • Smother the fire by carefully throwing a non-flammable blanket or rug over it. Starve it of oxygen.
  • Use a Class C or ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher rated explicitly for electrical blazes. Do not use water—position extinguishers around the home so they are accessible.
  • If the fire proliferates or you cannot safely reach the panel to cut power, evacuate the home immediately and close doors to contain the fire.
  • Call emergency services once you have safely exited. Provide details on the fire’s location and nature.


Other tips:

  • Avoid smoke inhalation by staying low and covering your nose/mouth with a wet cloth
  • If clothing catches fire, stop/drop/roll immediately
  • Inspect extinguisher gauges regularly to ensure adequate charge
  • Have multiple fire extinguishers placed for quick access
  • Practice using extinguishers so you’re prepared in an emergency

Though electrical fires are dangerous, quick and proper action following these guidelines can often safely extinguish a blaze before significant damage occurs. Remember to always prioritize human safety first in the case of rapidly spreading or uncontained electrical fires. Evacuate and let professionals handle high-risk scenarios.

After Extinguishing An Electrical Fire

There are still risks after successfully putting out an electrical fire, so remain vigilant. Allow the fire department to inspect and extinguish any remaining hot spots you missed thoroughly. Have a licensed electrician check all wiring and discard any burnt or damaged wiring before restoring power. Lingering electrical issues could re-ignite a fire.

Contacting your insurance provider to file a claim is also wise, as electrical fires often result in extensive repairs. Though using water on an electrical fire seems logical, it can make the situation exponentially worse by conducting electricity. Following proper electrical fire safety can mitigate damage and recover more smoothly.

Prevent Future Electrical Fires

Reducing the likelihood of another fire is crucial once an electrical fire occurs. Schedule a full electrical inspection by a licensed electrician to identify any repair problems. Upgrade any outdated wiring and replace old outlets or light switches that are damaged or faulty. Install new surge protectors, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and Class ABC fire extinguishers around your home.

Finally, diligently follow the prevention tips outlined in this article, like avoiding overloads, checking cords, not using high-wattage bulbs, and watching for warning signs of electrical issues. With vigilance and proactive maintenance, you can safeguard your home from the danger of electrical fires.

Safeguard Your Home: Key Takeaways on Electrical Fire Safety

As we’ve covered, electrical fires are hazardous but largely preventable and controllable with quick, informed action. You can protect your loved ones and home by regularly inspecting your electrical system, addressing faults immediately, preparing emergency equipment like fire extinguishers, and following the response steps outlined here.

Electrical fires often give warning signs before igniting – stay vigilant. And if a fire does occur, act calmly and methodically to extinguish it. Your electrical expert is always available further to evaluate your home’s electrical safety and readiness. Don’t play with fire – contact your favourite local Brisbane & Gold Coast electricians near you today!