How to Put Out an Electrical Fire

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 26, 2024

It might be a flickering lamp or an odd odor around the wall outlet. Either one can indicate a hidden danger that easily leads to property destruction and fire damage repair.

The electricity humming through your home is a powerful energy source and, according to the National Fire Protection Association, one of the leading causes of devastating house fires.

We help residents and businesses across Chicago recover from fire damage every day. Our crews find that many people don’t completely understand the unusual nature of electrical fire or what to do when it suddenly breaks out.

Are you ready to handle this type of emergency?

Electrical Fire Statistics

fire damaged kitchen

Most homeowners think of fire hazards as unattended stove tops or stray fireplace embers.

You probably don’t worry about the voltage running through your home’s electrical system, but the statistics are disturbing:

More than 50,000 homes are affected and almost 500 deaths are caused by electrical house fires every year.

Even when the damage is confined to just one or two rooms, this type of fire spreads very quickly. As electricity arcs through wiring in walls and ceilings, it fries lines, ricochets off equipment and ruins appliances plugged into your home’s electrical system.

The Most Common Sources of Electrical Fires in Homes

Wiring and related equipment are responsible for more than 60 percent of electrical home fires. Lighting fixtures, lamps and bulbs account for another 20 percent while plugs and cords are to blame for approximately 11 percent.

A 2019 report from the National Fire Prevention Association breaks down the different types of equipment involved in electrical house fires including space heaters, HVAC systems, water heaters and electric ranges.

Whether an electrical fire starts in the kitchen or sparks behind a wall, the causes are usually similar.

1. Equipment Wears Out

All appliances have limited mechanical lives. Once a space heater or electric range outlives its manufacturer’s recommended years of usage, it can become a fire hazard.

2. Older Wiring Begins to Fail

Wiring in older houses can lose the capacity to handle the power load necessary for running busy homes. Its failure can generate excessive heat, expand conductors and arc into electrical fires.

3. Tripped Circuits Don’t Cause Alarm

Overloaded circuits that constantly trip are simply reset or replaced with fuses that don’t have enough amperage to handle the recurring problem.

4. Lamps and Extension Cords Become Overloaded

Lamps burning with too much bulb wattage and extension cords supporting too many plug-ins are all dangerous and easily avoided electrical fire hazards.

Electrical Fire: What To Do When It Breaks Out

As soon as you realize that you’re facing an electrical fire, assess the safety of everyone in the house. If you have any doubts at all, immediately evacuate, and call the fire department right away.

In some instances, you can extinguish the fire with these tips. However, we strongly advise that you call 911 first.

• Take Out the Culprit

If you can identify the fire’s source appliance or device and you have safe access to its cord and outlet, unplug it.

Life-Saving Power Tip: Water conducts electricity. Don’t ever use it to extinguish an electrical fire. Doing so puts you and others in immediate danger of electrocution.

• An Unusual Life-Saver

Small, contained fires can be doused with ordinary baking soda. Its sodium bicarbonate composition is the same substance used in Class C fire extinguishers designed for handling electrical fires.

• Take the Oxygen Out

Small fires can also be put out with very heavy blankets or clothing. Covering flames cuts off their oxygen supply and smothers the fire.

• Check Your Fire Extinguisher

Before turning an extinguisher on an electrical fire, check the classification code letters. Most extinguishers are marked as multi-purpose Class A-B-C which means that they’re suitable for a range of fire types.

1) Firmly pull out the safety pin that locks the extinguisher’s discharge mechanism.

2) Stand several feet back, point the nozzle directly at the fire, and aim for the flame base.

3) Slowly squeeze the release lever. Don’t let up unless you want to stop discharging the extinguishing agent.

4) Put out the fire with steady sweeps from side to side looking out for flames pushed away from your target.

Power Tip: Ideally, you want to use a Class C fire extinguisher specially formulated for putting out electrical fires.

Life-Saving Power Tip: When dealing with an electrical fire, never use an extinguisher rated Class A only. This type of extinguisher is water-based and can create a serious electrocution hazard.

Dealing with Electrical Fire Damage in Chicago?

professional fire damage restoration

If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a fire, getting everything back to normal never seems easy. We understand, and we provide the most comprehensive fire damage restoration services in Chicago and the suburbs.

Call ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba right now help you handle the aftermath of an electrical fire: 773-647-1985

Can you put out an electrical fire with flour?

No. Throwing flour on an electrical fire is very dangerous. Tiny flour grains are highly flammable and ignite instantly. A small amount of flour thrown on an electrical fire will explode and make it worse.

How can I prevent old wiring from starting a house fire?

If you suspect old wiring in the house might be a fire hazard, call a licensed electrician. He or she will inspect your home’s electrical system, including wall outlets, light switches and power panels. Ask your local restoration contractor to recommend an electrician near you.

What is the average cost of a home fire extinguisher?

Single-use ABC fire extinguishers cost from $15 to $20. Multi-use home fire extinguishers can cost between $35 and $75. Most fire extinguishers are good for 5 to 15 years. When the pressure gauge needle moves out of the green “safe” zone, it’s time to replace the extinguisher.