Electrical Fires At Home Causes & Fire Prevention Tips

Electrical Fires At Home: Causes & Fire Prevention Tips

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Fire departments were called to about 46,700 fires involving electrical breakdowns or failures from 2015 to 2019. Unfortunately, these electrical fires have severely damaged people’s lives and houses and have taken or hurt loved ones.

Electric fires can cause severe injuries and even death, so it is essential to know how to prevent them. ّFortunately, as with other household fires, electrical fires are often preventable by following simple steps. 

Here are some fire prevention tips and methods to reduce the chance of electrical fires around your house.

Most Common Causes of Electrical Fires 

The electrical distribution circuit is the third leading cause of structural fires in homes. But there is good news- you can prevent nearly all of them if you understand the causes of electrical fires and take the necessary precautions.

We’ve compiled a list of the six most common electrical fire causes and how to prevent them. 

Note: if you want to keep your house and family safe, it would be helpful to learn more about explosions without fire- causes and examples on our blog.

Household Wiring

Electricity produces heat as it flows. As long as the wiring is designed and installed correctly, the amount of heat build-up in the electrical system will be meager. In some cases, however, failing equipment or devices generate more heat than they are designed to.

If your household wiring is old or damaged, it may be unable to keep up with your home’s power demands. Moreover, an outdated wiring system will not be compatible with today’s electronic devices, making it likely to fail even without external damage or causes.

What can you do?

Ensure the plugs are securely fastened, so they don’t cause electrical shock or fires. Replacing faulty or broken wall plates ensures there are no exposed wires or electrical parts. Make sure unused outlets are covered if you have small children at home.

Remember that electrical wiring won’t last forever. Occasionally, you may need to replace electrical wiring because of:

  1. Overuse 
  2. Changing environmental conditions
  3. Wiring issues

Cords and Electrical Circuit Overloads

There is a major home fire hazard associated with the careless use of extension cords. One extension cord may be unable to handle the power load of all the appliances plugged into it, such as video game consoles, home theatres, laptops, and (God forbid) more.

Overloaded circuits pose serious fire hazards and put your house at potential risk. 

What can you do?

Use a surge protector whenever you plug multiple electronic devices into one outlet. A home electrician can install additional sockets if your entertainment setup needs to accommodate several streaming devices to help spread the electricity burden and prevent a fire.

Portable Or Space Heaters

If you live in a city prone to freezing temperatures and harsh winters, space heaters can help maintain an optimum temperature during the winter months. You can use these compact, portable heaters anywhere in your home that needs a bit of extra warmth.

Ensure that your household knows the potential hazards of portable heaters and how to avoid an electrical fire if your household uses them to warm its home.

What can you do?

Whenever you use a space heater, use one that diffuses heat evenly across its surface area; even though they are less likely to ignite flammable items, they should still be far away. Moreover, use extension cords only briefly and never while using air conditioners or space heaters.

Light Fixtures

Electrical fires can also be caused by light fixtures, lamps, and light bulbs. Using too powerful bulbs for lamps and light fixtures is one of the most common causes of electrical fires.

Lampshades can also catch fire when fabric or paper is placed over them. Heat causes the substance to ignite, resulting in a home fire. A defective lamp or light fixture may also cause a fire.

What can you do?

Any lighting fixture or lamp has a maximum recommended bulb wattage, so never exceed it. Also, keep your clothes and papers away from lamps.

Holiday Decoration & Lights

Our fire explosion investigation team knows well how holidays are often associated with house fires. There are extension cords and lights everywhere, and even candles can be left burning unattended in the open.

These are all dangerous and can result in home fires at the most inopportune time and ruin your celebrations. 

What can you do?

Check the Christmas tree regularly to ensure it’s not wilting while lights or candles are still attached. Candles should be put out when you aren’t around. 

Remember that a dried-up Christmas tree is a disaster waiting to happen. So, keep your tree moisturized and away from heat.

Kitchen Appliances

Fires can occur when heat-generating kitchen appliances malfunction or are left on for long periods.

Running cords under kitchen rugs is another cause of electrical house fires. In addition, removing the cord from the grounded plug to use in a two-prong outlet can cause a fire. Extra prongs on appliances are designed to allow them only to be plugged into outlets that can handle the extra amount of electricity they draw.

What can you do?

Keep these tips in mind:

  1. Always unplug kitchen appliances when you are not using them. 
  2. Don’t overload kitchen outlets. 
  3. Unplug your toaster, microwave, or other appliance to prevent an electrical fire at home. 

Contact an electrician immediately if any of your electrical devices spark or emit smoke.

General Home Fire Prevention Tips 

  • Whenever you notice a loose outlet, repair or replace it. In some cases, tightening the wire nuts will improve the connection, but in others, the outlet may need to be swapped out.
  • Match the wattage of the light bulb to the fixture’s recommendation.
  • Evaluate your home’s electrical system, extension cords, power outlets, and electrical cords.
  • Ensure your wiring, external power panels, and electrical wall outlets are thoroughly inspected for electrical safety. 
  • Fire investigators recommend keeping a fire extinguisher nearby at all times. An extinguisher can help tackle smaller electrical fires since water cannot put out electrical fires.
  • Ensure your old wiring is replaced by a qualified electrician who follows the National Electrical Code.
  • You should regularly check smoke detectors and AFCIs monthly to test whether they are functioning correctly.
  • Create an emergency preparedness strategy for your household and practice it. This way, you won’t lose your cool in case of an emergency.
  • A house’s wiring is essential since aluminum wiring is more likely to burn than copper. 
  • Hire an expert and use their knowledge. Fire and explosion professionals like Michael Flynn can help you find the roots of each accident or problem.
  • You shouldn’t plug damaged power cords into devices. You should repair any cracked, damaged, or loose power cords before replugging them.
  • It would help if you had a smoke detector approximately every 21 feet in your home, including outside- in every sleeping area and every bedroom. Remember to install alarms in basements, garages, and attics as well. 


Many homes are wired for heavy usage, but accidents happen occasionally. It is often an electrical failure that is the root cause of the problem, sometimes caused by mechanical failure of one of the electrical devices in your home, and sometimes driven by improper use or design of your house wiring.

Roar Engineering fire and explosion investigation services follow the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 921) and Sound Engineering Practice (SEP). Our expert team of fire and explosion investigators has the technical knowledge to help you with any of your electrical fire needs.