Electric fires can arise at any time and have many causes. Possible sources of error are faulty cabling or overloaded devices. If you see an electrical fire, you should call the emergency number immediately. If you have the impression that you can fight the fire yourself, first turn off the power and try to put out the flames. By knowing what to do in the event of an electrical fire and when to call the fire department, you can not only save your own life, but also protect your family, friends and neighbors.
Method 1 of 4: Take security measures
Step 1. Dial 911
If the fire spreads quickly and you cannot turn off the power, call 911 immediately. Even if you manage to put out the fire yourself after the call, it's still better to be on the safe side than to be lenient later.
- Logically, the fire brigade is much better equipped to fight electric fires than you are.
- Describe your problem to the emergency services as precisely as possible and mention that it is an electrical fire so that the fire brigade can prepare for it.
- Even if the fire is small, it is a good idea to call the fire department so that they can arrive in time if the fire should spread.
Step 2. Plan your escape route in advance
Before you start fighting the fire, make sure you can escape the fire area without getting injured. If you have two ways of escaping from the source of the fire, you can try to fight the fire. If you have only one escape route, don't take the risk and leave the area. In this case, you should wait for the fire department in a safe place and avoid putting yourself in danger.
- If you have two escape routes available, you can fight the fire until one of the escape routes has been blocked by the fire or rubble. As soon as one of the two ways is blocked, get to safety immediately.
- Escape routes are usually windows and doors through which you can easily get outside. For example, a window in an apartment on the upper floors is not a good escape route, but a window on the ground floor is.
Step 3. Get yourself to safety
As soon as you feel unsafe, an exit is blocked, it gets too hot, the smoke gets too thick, or your efforts to fight the fire are having no effect, stop trying and get out of the building as quickly as possible. Your safety and physical integrity are more important than your belongings.
When you go out, close the doors behind you. This will help contain the fire and contain the spread
Method 2 of 4: Turn off the power
Step 1. Unplug the burning device from the socket
If a device, such as a toaster, has caused the electrical fire, you should immediately disconnect it from the power supply. Make sure you can plug it in safely without getting caught in a fire and pull the plug out.
- Unplugging the device from the wall outlet reduces the risk of the fire spreading to other devices and areas.
- Many electrical fires are caused by overloaded equipment. If, for example, a short circuit occurs in a toaster, the high heat can lead to a fire. Another example are Christmas tree lights, which can overheat if they are placed close together and plugged into the same connector strip.
Step 2. Turn off the power
If the fire starts from the wall or an inaccessible device that cannot be unplugged, turn off the power completely. If you can get to the switch box without putting yourself in danger, flip the main switch there. By turning off the power, you avoid electric shocks and the heat source that started the fire is eliminated, so you can then use various fire fighting techniques to suffocate the source of the fire.
If you can't get to the control box because the fire is in the way, don't take any chances. In this case, it is better to fight the fire with the power on than expose yourself to the risk of electric shock
Step 3. Make sure that the main switch is actually out of reach
If a fire has developed and the burning device is still supplied with electricity, heat continues to be generated so that the fire spreads more strongly. The extinguishing process is also more difficult with electricity, as you have to be careful of electric shock in addition to the fear of burns. Before you give up the effort of pressing the main switch, make sure that there is actually no safe way to get to it. Fighting a fire that is live is much more difficult.
If you cannot disconnect the electrical device from the mains, go to the power box and flip the main switch. Try to disconnect the power as soon as possible so that the fire does not spread any further
Method 3 of 4: Extinguish electrical fires with the power switched on
Step 1. Never use water to extinguish electrical fires
If you can't turn off the power and the fire is caused by an electrical device, just don't use water. Water is a good conductor of electricity and, in addition to the risk of fire, would increase the risk of electric shock.
If you are unsure whether the fire was caused by an electrical device or something else, stay on the safe side and do not use water
Step 2. Smother small fires with baking soda
If you can't unplug the burning device, cover the entire area with baking soda. This blocks the oxygen supply and suffocates the fire. It also reduces the risk of electric shock.
Do not use burning objects, such as blankets, to suffocate an electrical fire. If there is a power supply, lightly burning things will quickly catch fire
Step 3. Use only C or ABC fire extinguishers
In the event of an electric fire, you should only use these fire extinguishers. An electrical fire is known as a Class C fire, so you should use an appropriate C fire extinguisher. You can also use an ABC fire extinguisher, as it is approved for use in wood, garbage, liquid and electrical fires.
- Many home fire extinguishers have an ABC classification.
- Using other types of fire extinguishers could increase the risk of electric shock as they could contain liquids and chemicals that conduct electricity.
Step 4. Use the fire extinguisher properly
In the event of a fire, it's easy to forget how to use a fire extinguisher. To make the process easier, memorize the letters ZRDS and what each letter stands for:
- Z: PULL the silver safety pin on the fire extinguisher handle.
- R: POINT the fire extinguisher hose at the fire.
- D: SLOWLY PUSH the fire extinguisher lever.
- S: SWIVEL the end of the fire hose to fully meet the fire.
Step 5. Turn off the power if possible
As soon as you have the fire under control and you can safely get to the fuse box, turn off the power. This will reduce the risk of electric shock and further spread of the fire.
Method 4 of 4: Extinguish electrical fires with the power switched off
Step 1. Use a fire extinguisher if you should have one
Once you've successfully turned off the power, use a fire extinguisher if one is nearby. You can use any fire extinguisher when the power supply is switched off.
Step 2. Smother the fire with a fire blanket or thick blanket to put out the fire
If you don't have a fire extinguisher but you have a fire blanket, use it to smother the fire. You close the fire with the blanket so that no additional, incendiary oxygen reaches the fire. If you go fast enough, you can extinguish a small fire completely with a fire blanket or other thick blanket.
Step 3. Put out the fire with water
You need to be 100% sure that the electricity is turned off before using water to extinguish. If the power is off, water splashes or dumps on the source of the fire and surrounding areas that could also ignite. The moisture will put the fire out and prevent the fire from spreading.
- If you pour water onto an electrified source of fire, the risk of electric shock increases in addition to the fire hazard.
- If the fire is fueled by kerosene, oil, or any other flammable liquid, you shouldn't pour water on it. The water just spreads the liquid further, so the surrounding areas could catch fire as well.