TMCnet Feature
July 27, 2021

The Causes of Electric Fires and Tips To Prevent Them

Electrical fires
 or a battery fire can do serious damage to your home, so you must know what causes them and how to avoid damage. Here are the most prominent causes of an electric fire and some steps you can take to reduce your risk.  


There are several different potential causes for these fires. Fortunately, it is easy to identify the most common sources.  

Faulty Outlets and Appliances 

Either faulty outlets or appliances cause the majority of these fires. This can mean a fault somewhere in the appliance cord, receptacle, or switch. When faulty devices are used, they can send heat to combustible surfaces, such as rugs, curtains, and floors, which leads to a fire.  

Light Fixtures 

Lights, including lamps and ceiling lights, are another prominent source of fires. Generally, these are caused when the homeowner uses a bulb with too high of a wattage for the fixture. Conversely, when the fixture cannot support that much wattage, a fire can break out.  

Extension Cords 

Another big problem is overusing extension cords. Plug permanent appliances directly into an outlet, not an extension cord. These cords are designed to be used temporarily. Unfortunately, this means they can be overused and cause a fire.  

Space Heaters 

Portable space heaters are another source of these types of fires because you can easily put them close to flammable surfaces, including curtains, clothing, beds, couches, chairs, and rugs. These heaters may be small, but they can instantly ignite anything they come into contact with that is combustible.  


The last major cause of home fires is outdated wiring. Wiring that is more than 20 years old cannot support the devices used in modern homes, such as televisions, computers, gaming consoles, air conditioners, and microwaves, which can lead to overload and fires.  

Preventing Fires 

Basically, there are a lot of things that could lead to this type of fire. Fortunately, there are also plenty of ways you can prevent a fire. Here are some basic things you should do in your house to reduce your risk.  

Unplug Appliances Unless Using Them 

If you accidentally leave a heat-generating appliance for a long period of time, it can overheat and burst into flames. Therefore, you should unplug any kettles, toasters, curling irons, and clothing irons if you are not using them. If this is not possible, a smart plug is also a great option for reducing your fire risk.  

Don't Rely on Extension Cords 

As mentioned, extension cords are only designed for temporary use. Therefore, if you need more permanent outlets, you should hire an electrician to install them in your home rather than relying on extension cords.  

Never Remove the Ground Prong 

The third prong, or the ground, is your main source of protection during storms, power surges, and other electrical malfunctions. If you only have two-prong outlets in your home, you should call an electrician to have them changed rather than cutting the third prong off your power cords.  

Update Your Home’s Electric 

Many of the electrical systems in older homes, such as aluminum wiring, knob-and-tube wiring, or 60-amp systems, are at risk of overheating with too much use. If you have any of these in your home, you should hire an electrician to have them upgraded to modern copper systems that can handle 100-amps or more. Aside from reducing your risk of fires, it can also help you lower the cost of home insurance.  

Don’t Plug In Damaged Cords 

If you see that a cord is frayed, cracked, or otherwise damaged, do not plug it in. Instead, have it repaired first to prevent nearby combustible objects from catching fire.  

Follow Directions for Using Appliances 

While most people don't ever read the instruction manual for their toaster or curling iron, it is helpful to flip through these books and see if there are any directions for reducing the risk of using the appliance. Additionally, the instruction manual is where you will find directions on where to register for updates on recalls that could have something to do with fire hazards.  

Acknowledge Signs of Fire 

Lastly, burn marks, hot appliances, burning smells, sparks, shocks, flickering lights, and frequently blown fuses are signs that you are at risk of a fire. If you notice any of these, you should immediately stop using the device and call an electrician.  

These are a few of the common causes of these dangerous fires. Fortunately, you can take some of these steps to prevent them and protect your home.  

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