Smell something burning? Know these warning signs of an electrical fire to protect your home – St George News

2022-05-28 14:11:28 By : Ms. Kity Kao

ST. GEORGE —  Following an incident involving overloaded wiring last weekend, St. George Fire investigator and Battalion Chief Coty Chadburn discussed electrical fire risks and tips for citizens to keep their homes and families safe.

Suspected overloaded wiring caused the St. George Fire Department to respond to a possible structure fire on 810 East Street Sunday afternoon.

When firefighters arrived, there was no visible smoke, but they could smell something burning inside the house, Chadburn said. Using a thermal camera, firefighters found wiring in the attic wall that was overloaded and emitting heat.

Chadburn said the owners were home at the time and suspected they turned off their circuit breaker, noting that it was the smart thing to do and may have prevented their house from catching fire. Damage reportedly was limited to the area surrounding the wiring.

May is National Electrical Safety Month, an annual campaign sponsored by Electrical Safety Foundation International to raise awareness of electrical safety in homes, schools and workplaces, according to its website.

The Sunday afternoon incident, therefore, might have people asking: What are the warning signs of an electrical fire, and how can one be prevented?

Warning signs of an electrical fire include the smell of something burning, smoke emanating from sockets, walls or outlets that are warm or discolored, and flickering lights or circuits tripping. Chadburn said if a person touching an appliance feels a tingling sensation, that could be a sign that something is wrong with the appliance, the outlet or the electrical system.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 46,700 home fires in the United States between 2015 and 2019 involved electrical failure or malfunction, causing an average of 390 civilian deaths and 1,330 injuries.

Fires caused by electrical failure or malfunction primarily involved arcing, or an unintentional discharge of electrical current, which can produce enough heat to ignite a fire with sufficient time, depending on the level of current, the association states.

“Arc faults can be produced by worn-out receptacle contacts, damaged conductors and connectors, frayed appliance cords, loose connections in junction boxes or on electrical devices, as well as from faulty switches and receptacles,” according to the association.

Some 14% of civilian house fire deaths were caused by short circuits resulting from defective or worn insulation, which can result from cords pinched by doors or furniture, the repetitive flexing of appliance cords, or wiring damaged by nails, screws or drill bits that have punctured the insulation, the association reported.

In other cases, homeowners can cause damage to the electrical system by overloading outlets, Chadburn said. Large appliances like fridges, washers or dryers should only be plugged into outlets rated for them.

Any appliance that generates heat, like a toaster or coffee maker, should be plugged in one at a time to avoid overloading the socket, Chadburn said.

Homeowners often reset the circuit, which he said doesn’t solve the issue and can worsen it. In some cases, residents will attempt to fix an electrical problem, such as installing higher-rated breaker circuits, but doing so can cause more damage. He said that it’s best to contact a certified electrician.

“Because you’ve already had a problem with your system and if you don’t fix it, that problem will persist and keep happening until you fix the issue at hand,” he said.

For more information on electrical fire risks and prevention, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

Alysha Lundgren joined the St. George News team in 2022. She began her career as a freelancer, writing resource articles for families of children with disabilities. She's also covered topics such as astronomy, recreation and nature. Originally from Nevada, Alysha fell in love with Utah quickly after moving to Cedar City. In her free time, she enjoys wandering and photographing Utah's gorgeous landscapes or hunkering down in a blanket to play video games or read a good book.

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