How to Prevent and Respond to Appliance Fires
Electrical fires are a common cause of home fires. Appliances in the kitchen or elsewhere in the home can ignite for any of several reasons and spark a dangerous fire. Homeowners are urged to be familiar with strategies to prevent appliance fires and respond appropriately if one breaks out.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that between 2015 and 2019, fire department officials responded to approximately 46,700 home fires that involved malfunctioning electrical equipment or failure. Each year, this amounts to a staggering $1.5 billion in direct property damage.
What types of appliances can catch fire?
Certain household appliances are more at risk for catching fire than others. Refrigerators are designed with interior parts, like the compressor, which can overheat. If the electrical components inside catch fire, the surrounding plastic can become a steady fuel source for the flames.
Similarly, faulty heating elements inside a dishwasher can spark and result in a fire. Dryer lint traps are notorious for catching fire. The washing machine, too, is built with a drum that is capable of igniting, especially when the appliance is overloaded.
A stovetop containing an accumulation of grease can easily catch fire. Forgetting to turn off the oven can also lead to erupting flames. Overheated food and metal pieces on food packaging in the microwave are additional causes of fire. Failing to turn off a toaster oven can result in flames.
How is an appliance fire extinguished?
An appliance fire can be a scary event. However, putting out the fire can be accomplished—if the fire is small and manageable. Homeowners are advised to remember that water should never be used to extinguish an appliance fire; water conducts electricity, and electrocution is possible.
Cut off electricity to the appliance by unplugging it; this step should only be done if the plug and outlet are reachable. If the flames are small, throw baking soda over them to smother them. When heated, baking soda releases carbon dioxide, which helps squash the flames.
An alternative method of extinguishing a small appliance fire is to remove the oxygen source. The homeowner can cover the flames with a fire blanket—a durable sheet of fire-resistant material. Oxygen is a primary element of fire, and cutting off the oxygen in this way can effectively suppress it.
A final method of quelling the appliance fire is to use a fire extinguisher. Since electrical fires are a Class C fire, the fire extinguisher should have a C rating. Use the extinguisher properly by pulling the lever, aiming toward the flames, squeezing, and sweeping in a side-to-side motion.
If the fire grows large, leave the area. Upon exiting, close the door to the room in which the fire ignited to contain it. Call 911 from a safe distance, and wait for the fire officials. Do not re-enter the home until it is safe to do so.
How are appliance fires prevented?
Most appliance fires can be prevented. Regular inspections of the wiring by a licensed electrician and monitoring how the appliances are used can significantly decrease the risk of a fire. Faulty wiring, outdated electrical panels, and malfunctioning lighting are common causes of an electrical fire.
Older homes, such as those ten years on up, are due for an electrical inspection. Damaged or old wiring may no longer meet the home’s energy demands. If old, frayed, or tattered wiring are discovered upon the inspection, replace the damaged wiring immediately to prevent the risk of a fire.
Like the wiring, electrical plugs should be inspected periodically for signs of damage. For instance, check the plugs to the fridge, microwave, and washing machine on a regular basis. During routine inspections of the household appliances, handle the plugs carefully to avoid an electrical shock.
Avoid overloading the electrical outlets. Each outlet in the home is designed to carry a limited amount of electricity. Overwhelming an outlet can spark a fire. Since power surges can be destructive, use a surge protector to protect the appliances and help prevent an electrical fire.
When looking for electrical products, avoid buying counterfeit ones. Low-priced power strips, extension cords, or circuit breakers may be an attractive buy but are in reality highly unsafe and extremely dangerous. Instead, opt to purchase products featuring the Underwriters Laboratories seal.
Faulty appliances can blow a fuse, trip a circuit, or cause a spark, especially ones with a high electrical demand. If the appliance is in need of repair or replacement, perform the task right away. Also check the electrical panel to ensure the electrical power delivered meets the demand.
Major home fires, whether caused by a malfunctioning appliance, faulty wiring, or even smoking, should be promptly extinguished by fire officials. Once the flames are put out, it’s important to contact ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration for immediate professional service.
Our highly rated company provides comprehensive fire and smoke damage restoration services. Our experienced cleanup specialists arrive promptly after your call to stabilize the fire damaged building and prevent a potential collapse. The walls and ceilings are cleaned to remove soot and residue.
Content cleaning and pack out services are provided for household goods damaged by the fire or its byproducts, like soot or smoke. ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration technicians are skilled in cleaning a wide range of household goods, from fire and smoke damaged clothing to electronics.
We clean the soot and smoke stains from affected household surfaces and prevent further damage. Our cleaning solutions are safe and effective, even on delicate surfaces, such as marble, brass, and porcelain. The final step in our restoration process is thorough deodorization to remove offensive smoke odors.
ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration responds immediately to calls from homeowners and commercial property owners in Denver, Colorado. Do not delay contacting us, since the spread of soot can result in permanent damage. Our crews are available 24 hours a day for quality fire damage cleanup.