Electrical Fire

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A failure within the electrical components of equipment or machinery or faulty electrical outlets and old appliances can cause electrical fires. Electrical fires originate in electric wires, cables, circuit breakers, and electrical components. Fires start in electrical panels from overloaded circuits or the age of the panel. The panel and circuits become overloaded when the distribution of electricity is inadequate. Occasionally, lighting equipment acts as a source of heat that is too close to easily combustible materials.

Water cannot be used to extinguish electrical fire till it is energized i.e. the circuit is live. If it is possible to put off the electrical power supply and de-energize the electrical circuit, equipment, or wire caught in fire, it must be done first. Then this fire can be extinguished as a class-A or B fire. Then water or soda acid type, foam or DCP type, and CO2 or Halon type extinguishers can be used.

If it is not possible to put off electricity (de-energizing is not possible), it should be treated as class-C fire and Carbon dioxide or DCP type extinguishers should be used. Sand buckets are also useful.

For a room or enclosure covering electric motors, cables, equipment, etc, automatic fire detection and CO injection system are available. In electric power plants, such systems are more useful to fight electric fires and to save costly machinery.

What causes of electrical fire

  • Defective wiring.
  • Faulty terminations.
  • Faulty joints, leading to overheating/sparking.
  • Bad maintenance of electrical installations.
  • Improper or no earthing.
  • Incorrect fuses.
  • Explosive atmosphere.

Defective wiring

  • Make proper load calculations & exact requirements for selecting the type of wire for a specific purpose.
  • Ensure that the size of the wire selected can take maximum current flow through the wire.
  • When overloaded, due to overheating the insulation catches fire.

Faulty terminations

  • It can be seen that terminations in the control panel are done by inserting the bare wires into the termination slots & tightening the screws. This will lead to hot spots & cause fires.
  • Ensure that cable terminations are done by skilled jointers & panel assemblies must be factory assembled.

Faulty joints

  • Cable joints should be done by skilled jointers, as a faulty joint can lead to overheating & eventually a fire.
  • In wiring, installation ensures that proper joint boxes are used & not loosely joined, as this can lead to sparking/overheating and eventually fire.

Bad maintenance of electrical installations

  • Maintenance is a very important activity of safety in electrical installation.
  • Many parts of a distribution system such as ht breakers, transformers, lt breakers, distribution panels, protective relays, wiring, etc are prone to dust ingress & deterioration over a period of time & need close examination periodically to assess cleaning, overhauling, replacement, or repair, before failure.

Improper or no earthing

  • Proper earthing is a very important aspect of preventing electrical fires.
  • Electrical fires due to static discharges can be totally prevented by proper earthing.
  • Electrical fires due to lightning discharges can be prevented by providing properly designed lightning arresters & earthing.

Incorrect fuses

  • The majority of fires are caused due to the incorrect capacity of the fuses.
  • It is essential to split up an installation into several sub-circuits & protect each circuit by the correct size of fuse.
  • If this is not done overload & short-circuits are not isolated & fires will be caused.
  • Do not keep anything combustible near the fuse boards.
  • Avoid using wooden fuse boards or ensure wooden fuse boards are lined with asbestos.

Explosive atmosphere

  • Special care is required when using electrical apparatus in situations where explosive atmosphere obtains, such as in garages, petrol storage tanks, mines, etc.
  • All equipment used i.E. Switchgear, motors & starters should be of ‘flame proof’ construction so that at no time may a naked spark be exposed to the explosive atmosphere.

How to stop an electrical fire

  • Inspect electrical wiring:
  • Check and replace old wiring: 
  • Check the plugs on electrical appliances
  • Don’t overload your home’s electrical outlets: 
  • Keep flammable materials away
  • Use surge protectors etc.
  • Always make sure that your appliances are unplugged when you are not using them:
  • Always use extension cords on a temporary basis.

Electrical fire extinguisher

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are the primary extinguisher used in extinguishing electrical fires. CO2 extinguishers are ideal for places with a lot of electrical equipment such as offices or server rooms. CO2 extinguishers work by smothering the fire and cutting off the supply of air.

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers contain only pressurized carbon dioxide gas and CO2 works by suffocating the fire and does not cause damage to the electrical items or cause the system to short circuit.

How to put out an electrical fire

You need to put your safety first, don’t try to be a hero if you are not able to turn off the electricity and an electric fire growing quickly. Call 911 immediately.

  • Cut off or disconnect the electricity: First, disconnect the electricity.
  • Use a fire extinguisher: An electrical fire is known as a Class C fire, and so requires a Class C fire extinguisher. Class C fires are “fires involving energized electrical equipment such as computers, servers, motors, transformers, and appliances, etc.
  • Use Baking Soda for Small Electrical Fires: Baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate, an ingredient in Class C fire extinguishers. For small electric fire, it is used. cover the whole area in baking soda and it will block the oxygen that the fire needs to keep burning.
  • Remove the oxygen source: Without oxygen, the fire can’t burn. You can use a heavy blanket to smother the fire via oxygen deprivation. This method won’t work if the fire is bigger.
  • Never Use Water While the Power Is On: Water is a natural conductor of electricity and if you throw water on an electrical fire, you can get shocked. If the electricity is cut off or disconnected, then this fire can be extinguished as a class-A or B fire. Then water or soda acid type, foam or DCP type, and CO or Halon type, an extinguisher can be used.

Action in case of electrical fires

  • First, switch off the supply to the affected area, & then try to extinguish the fire.
  • Do not use water to extinguish electrical fires.
  • Covering the fire with sand is effective but can not be used on electrical machinery.
  • For putting out electrical fire mediums such as co2, dry chemical powder, aragonite, etc. To be used.

FAQs for Electrical fire

which type of fire extinguisher is used for electrical fires?

In the case of live electrical fires class, C fire extinguishers are used to extinguish the fire. If the electricity is cut off or disconnected, then this fire can be extinguished as a class-A or B fire. Carbon dioxide extinguishers (CO2) and Powder extinguishers are used to extinguish an electrical fire.

what does an electrical fire smell like?

The electrical fire initially has a fairly acrid smell of plastic burning but You Can’t Figure it Out. Most of the warning signs of electrical fires are invisible and odorless.

Can electrical tape catch fire?

Most of the reputable brands produce electrical tapes with good thermal properties that can handle temperatures around 80 degrees Celsius, electrical tapes are likely to catch fire if they get very hot. The chances of combustion are reasonably low when the tape is used properly and in the right environment.

What are the signs of an electrical fire?

Electrical fire smells like plastic burning But You Can’t Figure it Out.

What is ABC in fire extinguishers?

ABC fire extinguishers are filled with a fine yellow powder. The greatest portion of this powder is composed of mono ammonium phosphate. An extinguisher with an ABC rating is suitable for use with fires involving ordinary combustibles, flammable liquids, and energized electrical equipment.

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