How to Put Out an Electrical Fire?

Electrical Fires at Home

Residential fires in the United States are quite frequent. Reports show that fire departments in the US respond to a fire emergency every 24 seconds. The United States Fire Administration recorded over 354,400 fires in 2019. 7% of these fires resulted from an electrical failure.

Here is a guide on what an electrical fire is and how to extinguish electrical fires.

What is an Electrical Fire?
Electrical fires originate in circuit breakers, electric wires, electric cords, cables, outlets, and switches. They also occur in various electrical components and machinery like toasters or generators. They happen when an electrical component malfunctions and sparks a fire.

What Extinguisher Do You Use on Electrical Fires?
Class C fire extinguishers are most suitable for combating electrical fires. That said, you can use a multi-purpose fire extinguisher. Also known as an ABC fire extinguisher, it tackles most fires in homes.

Your safest option to put out an electrical fire would be to use a fire extinguisher. However, you need to take proper consideration when purchasing fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers come in different typestype A, B, C, D, E, and F – each puts out different types of fires. So, be careful when making your purchase.

Can You Put Water on an Electrical Fire?
No. Water is a good conductor of electricity; hence it is not an ideal tool for fighting electrical fires. However, if you must use a water fire extinguisher, unplug all electrical equipment.

Why is Water Not Used to Extinguish Electrical Fires?
The dangers of using water to extinguish an electrical fire are two-fold. First, water conducts electricity, thus increasing the risk of electrocution. Additionally, the flooded water could result in short-circuiting of other appliances.

How to Stop an Electrical Fire?
There are various ways to put out an electrical fire. The most effective is a fire extinguisher explicitly made for electrical fires, the Class C fire extinguisher. Although, you can also use a standard household fire extinguisher, the ABC fire extinguisher.

If you do not have a fire extinguisher, you can use other approaches to prevent electrical fires from breaking out and spreading. Let's examine other options.

How to Put Out a Fire Without a Fire Extinguisher?
Fire extinguishers are perfect tools when dealing with fires. But there are instances where a fire extinguisher may not be practical or within reach. In such cases, you can opt to put out the fire using the following ways;

  • Use baking soda
  • Put a fire blanket over the fire
  • Use sand to smother the fire's oxygen

How to Put Out a Fire Without Water?
Avoid using water or a wet towel on electrical fires. Instead, do the following;

  • Turn off the power supply
  • Cut the fire's oxygen by covering the fire with a fire blanket
  • Use carbon dioxide fire extinguishers
  • Use dry chemical fire extinguishers

How to Stop an Electrical Fire?

Does Baking Soda Put Out Fires?
Yes. Baking soda contains a bicarbonate chemical compound present in Class C fire extinguishers.

Does Salt Put Out Fire?
Yes. Salt can help smother small fires since it is a good heat absorber. So how does it work? All fires need oxygen to survive. Salt acts as a barrier between the air and the flames, thus limiting oxygen and electrical fire spread.

The same mechanism applies in the use of sand to extinguish incendiary bomb devices.

Does Flour Put Out Fire?
No. Flour is combustible and should never be an option for putting out a fire. However, you can consider using baking soda or CO2 fire extinguishers.

Can Cat Litter Put Out a Fire?
It depends on the type of cat litter; there are clumping, non-clumping clay, biodegradable, and silica crystal litter. You can use the non-clumping clay cat litter to put out a fire. Avoid using any other cat litter because it could be flammable.

How to Detect Electrical Fire in a Wall?
Electrical fires in walls make it difficult to access and put them out immediately. Several factors can cause electrical fires in walls. These include:

  • Improper installation, such as stretching the wires too tight
     
  • Crash or damage to the wall
     
  • Nicking of the wire during some form of demolition
     
  • Physical damage caused by animals such as rats
     
  • Aluminum wires expanding and contracting at a different rate

When any of these happens, electrical fires can ignite behind your walls. You can detect such faults through early signs such as:

  • Flickering of lights
     
  • Sparking at the fuse box
     
  • Discolored extension cords
     
  • Acrid odor coming from switches or electrical outlets
     
  • The heat coming from switches and the electrical panel

These could be early warnings of an electrical system malfunction turning into a catastrophe. Call a professional for repairs to deal with the concealed electrical fire. It is also advisable to call 911 if a fire starts.

Can You Use a Fire Blanket on an Electrical Fire?
Yes. A fire blanket is ideal for an electrical fire. Fire blankets have fire retardant materials. That means you can smother the electrical fire with it or wrap it around people escaping a fire.

What to Do if an Electric Outlet Catches Fires?
Here are the dos and do-nots to remember when an electrical outlet catches fire.

Do

  • Disconnect electricity supply; ideally shut down your circuit breakers
     
  • Install arc fault and ground fault circuit breakers
     
  • In case of a big fire, vacate the house immediately
     
  • Close the door when leaving the house to help contain the fire and prevent it from spreading
     
  • If the fire is small, cut off its oxygen supply by using a fire blanket
     
  • Use baking soda to put out a fire
     
  • Safely unplug cords from other outlets not on fire

Do Not

  • Do not attempt to recover items that have caught fire
     
  • Avoid re-entering a house on fire until fully extinguished
     
  • Do not plug in devices with damaged cords

Are You Prepared for an Electrical Fire?
Electrical fires cause massive property damage and loss of life. It is thus advisable to take precautions when dealing with electricity. Following electricity safety regulations is the first step. You should also consider having a multi-purpose fire extinguisher.

What's more, always insist on quality electrical appliances. Also, request a home risk assessment, including electrical hazards, before purchasing any new residential property.

Hope that helps!

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At your service,
Young Alfred