An electrical fire has a distinct smell that can indicate the fire’s current state. An electrical fire smell can be either burning plastic or fishy. So how does it honestly smell? We will tell you.
In this post, we will talk about how an electric fire smells, its causes, and what to do if it happens.
Why does an electrical fire smell?
An electrical fire can occur when circuit breakers, cables, or electric wires malfunction or fail. However, you can’t always rely on seeing the fire as the only telltale sign of an electrical fire. For example, an unappealing odor can be a giveaway that something’s wrong.
There are two options to describe an electrical fire smell. In the first place, some people argue that it is like the acrid odor of burning plastic. This particular odor is understandable because, behind your wall, plastic components like wire coatings could be on fire.
Some say an electrical fire smells like fish. Yes, it’s a weird fact, but it explains that when electrical parts overheat, they sometimes emit a fishy smell.
It would be best if you worried less about a fishy smell and more about a burning plastic smell. As we mentioned earlier, an electrical fire is hard to spot because it happens behind walls. Therefore, I recommend you call the fire department as soon as you perceive that scent.
Causes of an electrical fire?
The causes of an electrical fire are many. However, we will mention the most common ones so that you can take the necessary precautions.
Old wiring installations.
Your home’s wiring won’t last forever. But, on the other hand, if your home’s wiring is over two decades old, it might be time for an upgrade. But don’t wait until your house is burning to call an electrician!
As wiring ages, it becomes less able to handle the electrical load that today’s homes require. If a circuit gets overloaded, it can trip the breaker. Also, if your breaker box is as old as you’re wiring, it can overheat and eventually catch fire.
A good rule of thumb is to have your wiring checked when your house is around 25 years old. Typically, only a few breakers or the main panels require maintenance.
However, if your home is from before 1980, some of the wirings may contain cloth sheathing. In that case, it would be best to replace it with current standards.
Improper space heater usage.
If you have a space heater in your house, you’re supposed to take certain precautions.
For instance, Keep your space heater away from flammable materials like carpeting, furniture, chairs, clothing, beds, and curtains. All these flammable materials are hazardous when there are near a space heater.
Faulty extension cords.
Extension cords can be very convenient, but if you misuse them, they can become dangerous.
For example, you should not hide extension cords under furniture or carpeting. If you do this, it could create a fire hazard. In addition, you should never connect several extension cords, a practice known as daisy-chaining.
Lighting fixtures are over wattage.
Your table lamp could cause a fire if it’s overworked. As do lighting fixtures, all light bulbs have a recommended wattage range. Once you exceed the recommended capacity for the light bulb, it could explode or ignite the lamp or lighting fixture.
Other signs of an electrical fire.
There are danger signals other than the electrical fire smell. Therefore, you must be attentive to the signs to be prepared and prevent damage to your home.
- Buzzing sounds
- Dimming lights
- Breakers tripping often
- Electrical sparking
- Discolored switches and outlets
- Hot switch plates and outlets
If you have seen any signs of an electrical fire in your home or office, I recommend you call an expert. But, do not leave it for the end. Remember that it only takes an electrical overload to start a fire.
What to do if you experience an electrical fire?
Faced with an electrical fire, you should do these three things:
Get out of the building
Do not stay if you see outlet discoloration, smell a fishy odor, or notice that several outlets are hot. It would be best if you left the premises immediately to prevent the fire from spreading and becoming more serious.
If the fire is small and visible, you can try to smother it with a fire blanket. Use your home fire extinguisher if it’s a little bigger and you have the proper training. However, if you can’t find the fire or are in doubt, it’s best to leave the premises and wait for professional help.
Unfortunately, most of the time, once you see the fire, it will be too late to attack it yourself. In that situation, it would be best to evacuate.
Call the firefighters
Call 911 as soon as you are a safe distance from the burning building. Explain the situation calmly to the operator, and give your address. Firefighters will be dispatched to your location right away.
Contact the electrician
Once the fire department has put out the fire and everyone is safe, it’s time to change the electrical circuits in your home.
If you suspect an electrical fire, it is essential to act quickly and safely. For example, if you smell burning plastic or fish, this could signify an electrical fire. Be sure to stay away from the area and call 911 immediately.