Electrical fires can seemingly come out of nowhere, and there are several ways that an electrical fire can start. Prevention is the best course of action to take against these tragedies, but there are several things that can cause electrical fires that may not be obvious to the average homeowner. Most electrical wiring has a lifespan of around thirty to forty years, but around a third of homes in the U.S. are more than fifty years old. If your home's wiring is outdated or worn, you'll notice some problems that you shouldn't ignore such as frequently tripping circuit breakers. During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum wiring was commonplace. Unfortunately, aluminum very quickly oxidizes, which can lead to corrosion. This kind of wiring is adequate for a short time, but it does not have lifespan that copper wiring does-and once it's corroded, it's only a matter of time before it fails.
It's important that you have a professional electrician inspect your wiring and make sure that your home is safe. Arc faults occur when an electrical current veers from its intended path, and they are a leading cause of electrical fires. Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) can detect arcs and cut off the circuit before it overheats. AFCIs can prevent anywhere between 50% and 75% of fires caused by arc faults. The first and most important thing to remember is to never attempt to put out an electrical fire with water. Electricity from the fire can travel up the water and potentially electrocute you. You also run the risk of making the fire worse. If you can do it in time, unplugging the whatever is on fire will cut off the electricity that is causing the fire. If you can't unplug the device, you'll need to use a fire extinguisher labeled A-B-C, which indicated that is effective against fires involving ordinary combustible materials, flammable liquids, and electrical equipment.