How to Put Out an Electrical Fire and 6 Common Causes

Electrical fires are no joke - they can cause immense damage and severe injury or even death if not dealt with correctly.

And they are more common than you might think - of the 3,000 house fires in Victoria each year, approximately 300 are caused by faulty electrical wiring.

Preventing electrical fires: 6 steps to take

As with all things in life, prevention is key when it comes to safe electricity.

Here are some common causes of electrical fires and things you can do to slash the risk of an electrical fire at your property

  1. Ensure all electrics are properly grounded/protected.

All electrical systems need to be grounded with an earth wire which guides any excess electricity into the ground in the event of an electrical overload. They should also be protected by an AFDD (Arc fault detection device), the newest iteration of a safety switch, to vent electrical overloads and arc flashes that can result in fire. 

  1. Have your electrical components routinely checked by a professional

Always have safety switches, circuit breakers and other electrical components checked by a licensed electrician at least biannually to ensure they keep your electrical system safe. 

  1. Ensure your switchboard and wiring are safe and up to government standards.

Outdated switchboards and wiring (including old cotton cabling with broken casing or frayed wiring) can be dangerous and pose a risk of sparking. Old cotton cabling is also not in line with the Victorian Government's current safety regulations. Essentially, if your electrical system was installed more than 20 years ago, it is time for a check by an electrician.

  1. Replace/stop using electrical devices, appliances or charging cables with frayed wiring.

Any electrical device or cable with a broken casing (leaving exposed wires) or frayed cords can pose a safety risk for electrical shocks and fires. In addition, a worn-out, frayed cord sends heat into combustible materials such as curtains, rugs, floors etc.

  1. Avoid using appliances that trip your electrical system

Suppose you notice your electrical system stumbling or shorting when you use a specific electrical device. In that case, you should consider replacing it, as it could cause arc flashes and sparking that can trigger an electrical fire. If the problem persists after replacing the electrical device, you need to book an electrician to investigate further.

  1. Avoid the overuse of power boards and extension cords.

Power boards and extension cords (especially cheap or old ones) can pose a massive electrical safety risk. Too many power cords can result in too many appliances running on the same electrical circuit. If you're lucky, this will trip your circuit breakers. If you're not, overloaded powerboards, extension cords, etc., can generate excessive heat, cause sparking or fire, damage your property, and pose a safety risk.

Warning signs of electrical fires

There are a few telltale signs that your electrical system could be at risk of fire. These include:

  • Flickering lights
  • Sparking or hot extension cords
  • Hot or discoloured power outlets and switches
  • Buzzing or humming sounds from your outlets or switches
  • Power outlets or light switches that feel stuck or difficult to switch on and off
  • Old, frayed or exposed wiring
  • Frequently tripped circuit breakers
  • Small flashes or electrical shocks when plugging and unplugging from wall sockets

You should also always keep an eye on high-risk electrical appliances such as portable space heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators, etc., as they require a large amount of electricity to work and can often cause issues with overloading a circuit.

How to put out an electrical fire

Electrical fires are a little more complicated than your average house fire because they are connected to electrical systems!

There are a few things you can do to put out/prevent the spread of an electrical fire:


While most people's first reaction to a fire is to throw water on it, you cannot put out an electrical fire with water. Water and electricity do not mix as water conducts electricity. Putting water on an electrical fire will actually make it worse rather than better.  

Unplug or disconnect power where possible

An effective way to stop most electrical fires from spreading is to disconnect the electricity supply. If an appliance/the cable to an appliance has caught on fire you should pull the plug from the power source.

If you can’t do that or if the fire has spread into a plug, switch or circuit the best option is to turn off the main switch at the switchboard.

Cutting the power will not only reduce the risk of the fire spreading, it will also reduce the risk of electrical shocks. 

Use A Dry Chemical fire extinguisher

If you have fire extinguishers on your property, this is the time to use them.

A fire extinguisher is the best way to put out an electrical fire. Aim the spray at the base of the fire to put it out as quickly as possible and prevent any hazards. 

Smother with baking soda

If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, small electrical fires can be dealt with by throwing baking soda directly onto the fire.

Sodium bicarbonate, one of the chemicals found in baking soda, is also present in class c fire extinguishers so having some in your kitchen could be a lifesaver. 

Use a fire blanket or heavy item of clothing for small fires

Fire blankets can be helpful for smothering small electrical fires. If you don’t have a fire blanket you can use very dense (non-flammable) fabric or clothing.

You will need to ensure the material you are using is not combustible otherwise it will catch fire and worsen matters. 

Call the fire department (000)

If you have any doubt about your ability to put out the fire or if it has spread, please call the fire department immediately. They can be a major life threat and must be treated accordingly!

It is also recommended that you call the fire department if the electrical fire started on an appliance that was attached to the wall ceiling or floor as the fire may also be burning or smouldering inside the building where you can’t see it. 

Protect your property from electric fire with regular safety checks

The best way to ensure your property's electricity is safe is to have it checked by a licensed electrician.

Our team at 181 Electrical can conduct a thorough electrical safety audit to catch and fix minor electrical issues before they become dangerous.

Contact us on 0403 734 299 or use the button below to book your appointment today!

Liam Dove181 Electrical TeamAlex Botto181 Electrical Team181 Electrical Team181 Electrical Team

A friendly team for your electrical needs.

Our team is ready to help you. Get a quote for your electrical installation needs today!

4.9 rating, 200+ reviews
181 Electrical team