How to Put Out an Electrical Fire
If you think the best way to put out a fire is by dousing it with water, you’d be surprised to know you’re wrong. As it turns out, not all fires are created equal, and there is more than one way to extinguish them safely.
There are situations where you should not use water to deal with a fire at all. For example, an electrical fire. But first, here’s a brief look at the different types of fires and how to best approach each one of them.
Different Fire Classes
Class A fires commonly start from typical fuel sources such as paper, trash, fabric, plastics, wood, and other flammable material. An example of a Class A fire is a dumpster fire. Extinguish it with a steady stream of water or monoammonium phosphate.
This type of fire is usually the result of an explosion from flammable liquids or gases such as solvents, gasoline, kerosene, alcohol, oil-based, and paints. Smother the flames instead of putting it out with water. Depleting its oxygen source is key to successfully extinguishing it.
Class D fires involve combustible metals such as magnesium, sodium, aluminum, potassium, and titanium. You’ll typically find these materials in laboratories and factories. To extinguish a Class D fire, dry powder agents work best. Again, using water to put this class of fire out would only worsen the situation, as it could further agitate the flames.
Otherwise known as kitchen or cooking fires, you should extinguish this fire class immediately with a chemical fire extinguisher. Cooking fires are sparked by oil components used in the kitchen, such as grease, lard, cooking oil, butter, animal fats, and even vegetable fats. A chemical fire extinguisher is the best way to put this fire out because it contains chemical agents that can absorb the flames’ heat and cut off the oxygen source.
Class C – Electrical Fire
Electrical fires are otherwise known as Class C fires and are usually due to faulty wiring. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 37% of all fire cases in the United States in 2019 were structural fires, 75% from residential buildings. From this, as many as 2,870 civilians died, while another 12,000 were injured.
A report presented by the NFPA found that electrical fires were the second leading cause of residential fires from 2012-2016. The findings show that this type of fire is responsible for the highest share of civilian deaths at 18% and direct property damage at 20%.
It also reveals that electrical fires occur more commonly during the colder months of November through February.
Most Common Causes
One of the most common causes of electrical fire is old appliances and equipment. The older the device is, the more prone it is to short-circuiting, sparking a fire.
Poor maintenance of electrical panels is also a possible cause of electrical fires. Make sure to regularly check and clean the electrical panels of dirt and dust, which could impact the circuit breakers. Wiring kinks and frayed wires are also possible causes of an electrical fire.
How to Put Out an Electrical Fire
1. Shut Down the Main Power
The first thing you should do if an electrical fire breaks out is to shut down the main power. This is a crucial step in preventing the fire from spreading any more damage to the rest of the electric wiring system. If the fire starts from an appliance, act quickly but safely to unplug it.
2. Cut off the Oxygen Source
If the fire is still small enough, smother it with a heavy cloth such as a blanket as quickly as possible. Be careful not to let the flames catch onto the cloth; otherwise, that will only spread the fire further.
If it occurs in the kitchen and you have baking soda within reach, you can douse the flames with it. Baking soda is made of sodium bicarbonate, which is effective in smothering out flames.
3. Use a Fire Extinguisher
Make sure that it is specifically for Class C fires. It’s safe to know beforehand what type of fire extinguisher you have in your home. Most would be labeled as safe for use on Class A, B, and C fires. To be safe, double-check first before using it on an electrical fire.
4. Do Not Use Water
As you know by now, not all fires are created equal, and you shouldn’t extinguish all fires with water. In the case of electrical fires, using water to put out the fire can turn out to be more dangerous. Not only can water cause further circuit damage and sparks, which can lead to bigger fires and explosions, but it is also a natural conductor of electricity. This means that it puts you at a very high risk of being shocked or electrocuted.
Prevention is Still Better Than Cure
While it’s good to know the steps on how you can put out an electrical fire, the best thing you can do is still to take steps that would prevent them from happening in the first place. This means keeping a keen eye out for possible electrical issues in your property, from flickering lights to weird noises coming from your appliances. Replace old appliances if you can.
Also, be mindful of your appliance use. Extension cords should never be used for air conditioners and space heaters, and definitely make sure not to overload your outlets.
A qualified electrician should be able to help you ensure that everything is in tiptop shape when it comes to your home’s electrical connections, so get them checked out regularly. Echo Air Conditioning is more than just HVAC system installation and maintenance. We also provide electrical and plumbing services. Call us today or book a service online.