How to Extinguish an Electrical Fire

Electrical fire through outletDo you know how to put out an electrical fire? Are you unsure what, exactly, constitutes an electrical fire?

The answers to both these questions are crucial to the safety of your home and family. Fortunately, we have those answers for you below, as well as how to prevent electrical fires altogether.

Knowing if the fire in question is electrical in nature, and how to respond quickly and appropriately, could be the difference between a small fire quickly doused and a devastating disaster with potentially life-changing ramifications.

In this electrician’s blog post we’ll cover:

  • What an electrical fire is
  • What to do if a fire starts and how to put out an electrical fire
  • What to do if you can’t extinguish the fire
  • How to prevent electrical fires

What Is an Electrical Fire?

An electrical fire is one which is caused by electricity or an electrical fault.

More specifically, these fires originate in the electric wires, cables, or circuit breakers of residential or commercial buildings, or within the electrical components of appliances.

Electrical fires are thus commonly caused by:

  • Poor maintenance of wiring and electrical panels
  • Old equipment and appliances
  • Not keeping your electricity and wiring up to safety codes

How To Put Out an Electrical Fire

Of course, the best course of action is to try and prevent electrical fires altogether by taking the necessary precautions. This might include electrical system upgrades or wiring upgrades, as well as regular electrical maintenance. Below you’ll find more on how to prevent electrical fires from starting.

However, sometimes electrical fires happen despite all preventative plans and measures. Therefore it’s important to be armed with the knowledge and best practices of how to extinguish an electrical fire.

Steps To Put Out an Electrical Fire

Safety First

If the electrical fire is large or you don’t know how to deal with this type of fire, here are two things you need to do:

    1. First, have & follow a pre-planned escape route to guide your family to safety and get everyone out immediately.
    2. Next, call 911 and be sure to tell them you believe it is an electrical fire.

Never use water on electrical fireNever Use Water

If it is a small fire and you want to try and put it out yourself, never use water. Although dousing a fire with water may be your first instinct it is not how to put out an electrical fire.

You never, ever put water on an electrical fire, especially while the power is still on. Why? Because water naturally conducts electricity.

So, if you throw water on this type of fire, you increase your chances of being electrocuted or getting a severe electrical shock.

Furthermore, given its conduction prowess, water would allow the fire to spread quickly and ignite any highly flammable materials that may be close to it.

Smother The Fire

If the electrical fire is small, you can try putting it out by smothering it. Two options to do this:

      1. Small fires can be smothered with baking soda – also known as sodium bicarbonate (a compound found in Class C fire extinguishers incidentally). Once you’ve unplugged the power source, try covering the flames with baking soda.
      2. You can also smother a fire by removing the oxygen source with a ‘fire blanket’ – thick, heavy clothing, or a heavy blanket can work well to put out small electrical fires.

Shut Off the Electricity

If possible, shut off the electricity to the source of the fire. For example, if an appliance is a source, unplug it. If the plug is out of reach but you can still get to your home’s electrical panel safely, you will need to do that and disconnect the electricity in your home completely.

What Rating Is Your Fire Extinguisher?

rating fire extinguishersBefore automatically pulling the pin on your fire extinguisher and letting loose on an electrical fire, you need to check that it is appropriate for putting out this type of fire. Preferably do this prior the fire ocurring.

An electrical fire is a Class C fire, so your fire extinguisher must have a C rating for this type of fire.

While fire extinguishers for residential use are generally multi-purpose and labelled ABC fire extinguishers, it really is important that you verify that it is indeed rated for electrical fires.

If your fire extinguisher doesn’t have the Class C or ABC marking, the fluid inside may act as water would, and conduct the electricity, creating an electrocution hazard.

What To Do If You Can’t or Don’t Know How to Put Out an Electrical Fire

If you don’t know how to put out an electrical fire quickly and fully, you need to GET OUT of the house immediately. This is no time to try and play the hero; once your family is out, do not try to go back inside to put out the fire yourself.

Here are the specific steps to take if you find yourself unable to put the electrical fire out:

  1. Leave the room and then leave the house.
  2. As you leave, make sure you close the doors to the room the fire is in, plus close the house door to help keep the fire contained as much as possible.
  3. Once you are safe and away from the fire, call 911.
  4. Never re-enter your home until the firefighters have told you it is safe to do so.

How To Prevent an Electrical Fire?

The importance of knowing how to put out an electrical fire cannot be stressed enough. However, it is far more important to know how to prevent this type of fire. What is the very best way to do that?

Get a professional, licensed, and experienced electrician to perform a Home Electrical Safety Inspection.

An electrical inspection is recommended to ensure that all electrical wires, connections, and outlets properly meet BC safety standards. This is the best way to protect your family and your home. Regular electrical inspections can help identify issues before they cause fires or other hazards.

Now that we’ve talked in-depth about how to put out an electrical fire, let’s look at some simple steps you can take to help prevent electrical fires.

  • Prevent electrical fires dont overload circuitsThere are often warning signs to indicate a possible electrical failure. These may include but are not limited to, things like electrical hums and buzzing, flickering lights, regularly blown fuses or circuit breakers that trip frequently.
  • Don’t overload your outlets. Rather than add extra circuits – a good electrician will be able to advise you where this is necessary and get it done safely.
  • Never use extension cords with heating units or air conditioners.
  • Be careful with space heaters. Our electricians recommend only portable space heaters that come with a built-in shut-off safety mechanism so that the heater automatically shuts off if it is tipped over. And of course, never leave space heaters on overnight or unattended!
  • Make sure all your light bulbs match the recommended wattage for each fixture or lamp in your home/work building.
  • Install tamper-proof, child-proof outlets and other safety fixtures.
  • Check your electrical appliances regularly for signs of wear and tear, including fraying of wires. Once those signs appear, don’t try to fix the appliance in question. Always hire an electrician!
  • If you ever see smoke or smell burning from appliances, call an electrician!
  • Watch for discoloration on outlets – and if you see discoloration, call an electrician!

We really cannot stress enough that the very best way to deal with an electrical fire is to prevent them in the first place. For more on this topic, see this Technical Safety BC post on How to Prevent Electrical Fires.

Make sure all your electrical wiring, electrical panels and circuit breakers are in good working order, up to date, and up to code.

If you are unsure and need help, ask for a professional safety check. Premium Electric’s team of expert electricians is ready to help and keep you safe!

About Premium Electric

If you still have questions about how to prevent or how to put out an electrical fire, or if you need a qualified electrician, our Abbotsford electricians are here to help, 24/7.

Premium Electric provides professional electrical services throughout the Vancouver Lower Mainland to both residential and commercial clients and our certified electricians are fully bonded.

Do you still have questions about electrical fires?

Call us at 604-308-6195

We can also be reached through our online contact form or through email.

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