Many Home Fires are Linked to Electrical Causes

By Colleen Potton, Risk Reduction Specialist

South Metro Fire Rescue

Did you know that many of the home fires in South Metro Fire Rescue’s district are caused by faulty electrical outlets, frayed cords, or improper charging techniques?  With all of our electronics, we need to ensure we use them safely to prevent fires and keep our families safe. 

Charging devices

As we charge our cell phones, tablets, and laptops, we should place them on a solid nonflammable surface.  As those devices charge, they produce heat.  If you charge your devices on your bed, coach, or other soft surface, air is unable to flow around the device.  As a result, the soft surface and the charging device could heat enough to start a fire.

 Loose outlets

Do plugs fall out of your outlets?  This is a clue that an electrical fire could be started inside of your wall.  A loose outlet is a sign that your outlet is not making a solid connection with the rest of your power in your home.  When electrical connections are not solid, sparks can be created starting a fire inside your wall.  Quit using that outlet until you can have it replaced.

Damaged electrical and extension cords 

Are your cords showing signs of wear and tear?  If you see electrical cords in your home that are fraying, pulling away from the plug, or the plastic has worn off enough that wires are showing, it is time for a new cord.  Do not try to fix the cords; replace them.

 Outlets and power strips

Outlets and power strips can be overloaded.  When you have multiple items plugged into one outlet, the outlet can pull more electricity than it was designed for.  Plugging power strips into each other and plugging extension cords into power strips also directs too much electricity through one outlet.  This situation can result in an electrical fire.  The danger with this type of electrical fire is the fire may start behind the wall and go unnoticed until it has consumed much of the wall.

Other helpful hints

  • Appliances need to be plugged directly into the wall.  Large appliances like refrigerators require a lot of power and frequently cycle on and off, which can easily overload a power strip.
  • Not all extension cords are the same.  Some are not designed for use outside.  Make sure the extension cord is designed for your needs. 
  • As a reminder, never put water on an electrical fire.
  • Know how to turn off electricity to your home.
  • If you want to learn about volts, amps, and watts, check out this video from NFPA.

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