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  • Writer's pictureLisa Bea Smith

What You Need to Know About Electrical Fires

Nearly three-quarters of the deaths and total fires and 65% of the property damage were attributed to a particular type of electrical malfunction, a phenomenon called electrical arcing. Loose electrical connections, frayed cords and defective electrical insulation can allow electric current to “jump” between the conductors instead of staying in the circuit. An acrid smell isn’t the only thing to watch for. Smoke, sparks or flame coming from appliances or receptacles and noticeable scorch marks are immediate signals of an ongoing or past electrical fire.

Electrical fires smell like burning rubber or plastic because they are usually ignited by the insulation on the conductors. In addition to the acrid smell, watch for smoke, sparks, or flame coming from appliances or receptacles.

As a home-owner, if you see flames coming from a single small appliance or tool, immediately de-power the appliance and use a Class ABC fire extinguisher (or smother with baking soda). NEVER USE WATER TO PUT OUT AN ELECTRICAL FIRE!!!!

Electrical fires can often be prevented by:

• Replace frayed or worn electrical cords

• Don’t ignore flickering lights, circuit breakers that frequently trip, warm cords or switches, switches or receptacles that arc, spark or buzz, or any burn /scorch marks

• Never run extension cords under rugs, carpeting or around or over sharp objects or corners.

• Never overload circuits and don’t use “outlet extenders” that let you plug multiple appliances into one receptacle.

• Only use light bulbs that match the wattage of the light fixture.

• Only use extension cords as temporary wiring only. Circuits or receptacle outlets should be added for permanent use

• Have electrical work inspected and permitted, as required.

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