Seven Causes of Electrical Fires, and How to Prevent Them

Don't let these common issues cause a fire in your home. Most electrical fires are preventable. Know the risks, and what to look for.


Electrical fires are a dangerous reality. The wrong wiring, appliances, or outlets can be deadly. Even a single lightbulb can cause a house fire if preventative measures aren’t taken. Here are the top seven causes for electrical fires, and the signs of an impending disaster. Knowing them could protect your family, home, and assets.

Faulty Wiring:

Faulty wiring can cause an electrical fire quickly. Electrical DIYs are often the culprit, but any overlooked error can be disastrous.

What to look for and what to do:

– Hire a Master Electrician to check your wiring and install any new additions.

– Wiring audits are recommended every five years or so, especially in older homes.

– If you are constantly tripping and resetting your breaker, it can damage the breaker, which is an additional fire hazard. Prevent breaker damage by having wiring replaced or additional circuits installed as soon as you suspect a problem.


Older Homes:

If you have an older home, chances are you’ve noticed wear and tear in many places. Your wiring is also at risk of wearing out or corroding. Additionally, your home was probably not wired with modern appliances in mind. Your circuits may not be large enough to handle the increased load of running several high-energy devices from one socket.

What to look for and what to do:

– Watch for regular circuit overload, or lights that dim when other appliances are being used.

– Have an electrician check your wiring in places with high outlet usage, such as your kitchen or bathroom, as well as your breaker box. If necessary, have additional circuits installed.

– Use electricity consuming devices like air conditioners on a stand-alone circuit when possible, so you aren’t constantly tripping the breaker.

Overheating Appliances:

Old or overheating appliances are often to blame for electrical fires. It’s important to ensure you are using safe devices, and keeping up with their maintenance.

What to look for and what to do:

– Check your appliances regularly for frayed cords or damaged plugs – especially older appliances.

– Replace appliances when they are damaged or outdated, or have them repaired by a qualified electrician.

– Never remove the ground plug (the third, lower prong) on an appliance’s plug. This prong ensures that you only use wall outlets with appropriate power for the device.

– Only use safe and tested appliances in your home.

Faulty Outlets:

Faulty outlets can throw heat and eventually lead to fire. There are several indicators of malfunctioning outlets.

What to look for and what to do:  

– Keep an eye out for loose outlets in which a plug slides in very easily, or even falls out, and for intermittently functioning outlets.

– Look for burn marks around the terminals, which could indicate a loose wire connection.

– Have an electrician examine and replace faulty or cracked outlets before using them.

Extension Cords:

Extension cords are meant as a temporary power solution, rather than a long-term fix. Using a single socket to power multiple extension cords can be dangerous. Safe wiring is unseen wiring.

What to look for and what to do:

– Only use extension cords as a temporary solution. If you need a permanent appliance rewired to reach an outlet, have an experienced electrician do the work for you.

– Watch cord placement; cords running under rugs can be dangerous, and walking on them regularly is ill-advised.

– Make sure your extension cords aren’t old or worn out; the insulation can wear after repeated coiling, or from being walked on.

– Do not use multiple extension cords branching out from a single outlet. If you need more wiring in a particular location, have more outlets installed.

– Watch for cords that are warm to the touch.

Space Heaters:

Electrical fires are more likely to happen in the winter, thanks in large part to the need for heaters. Portable heaters are convenient, but often dangerous. Left unattended or left on for long periods of time, they can easily cause a fire.

What to look for and what to do:

– The best solution is to avoid using space heaters regularly. If you have to use one, make sure it’s only on for the time needed, and that you don’t leave it unattended. Place it away from any objects which may catch fire easily, such as carpets, curtains, or furniture.

– Avoid coil heaters; the coils heat up rapidly and ignite easily on contact with flammable materials. Try a radiation heater instead.

– Choose a heater with a tip-over switch, which will turn the device off when it’s tilted or turned over.


Even a simple lightbulb can cause a major fire. Proper installation of the correct lightbulbs will ensure your lighting is safe.

What to look for and what to do:

– Use lightbulbs with the appropriate wattage for your fixtures. Do not use lightbulbs that exceed the wattage limits.

– Ensure lampshades do not touch lightbulbs, and that no other flammable materials are directly nearby.

– If lights flicker or won’t stay lit, it could be the fixture that needs replacement. A flickering light may indicate that the wiring has frayed or been damaged.


Fire safety starts with preventative measures. If you do experience an electrical fire, throwing water on it can make it worse, because water is a conductor. Type C fire extinguishers are rated for electrical fires, or you can smother the flames with a blanket.

Call Blue Collar Electric to book an inspection for peace of mind.



By Danielle Mohr: Fine Point Writing & Editing (finepointwriting.ca