An electrical fire can be stealthy. Old or faulty wiring or an overloaded circuit can spark a fire inside a wall, the basement or the attic. Here are signs you need to act quickly to protect yourself and your family from an electrical fire in your home.
It’s not unusual to trip a breaker occasionally, but if it happens often, you may have improperly sized breaker switches. Repeated tripping of breakers, especially if it is the same switch, should be looked at by a licensed electrician.
Sometimes our misuse of the system causes breakers to trip. For example, plugging several lights or small appliances into one power strip overloads that circuit. Touch the power strip, and you’ll find it’s hot. If this is the case, resolve the problem by unplugging some items.
Snap, crackle and pop
Do you hear a crackling sound when you flip the light switch or a pop when you plug an item into an outlet? That’s a danger sign. The crackling or popping is electricity jumping from contact to contact. The switch or plug may be defective, overloaded or have a loose wire. Sometimes the outlet in question will also be hot to the touch. If so, immediately shut off the breaker to that circuit and call an electrician.
If your lights often flicker, especially when a particular appliance cycles, that circuit may be overloaded and need attention from an electrician.
Unlike a wood fire, an overheated circuit or electrical fire produces a pungent chemical smell. If you smell this around a switch or outlet, hurry to the breaker box and kill the power to that circuit.
In an emergency
If you see signs of an electrical fire, chances are it has spread already inside a wall. Call the fire department immediately. If you can safely do so, turn off the main breaker supplying electricity to the house.
Never use water to fight an electrical fire. You risk electrocution. Only a Class C fire extinguisher is suitable for fighting an electrical fire.
Related – Electricity: Your Home’s Risky Resource