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The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released a study in 2019 that highlights the fire dangers in the United States. Local fire departments respond to an average of nearly 1.5 million calls each year, with fires taking 3,700 lives and producing injuries to 16,600 people. One of the most common causes of fires is faulty electrical wiring. Although electricity is considered one of the breakthrough discoveries in American history, it also can be a killer when it comes to house and commercial fires.

One of the reasons why electricity generates such chaos when it comes to home and commercial fires is that it often can be difficult to detect the signs of an electrical fire. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (EFSI), more than 50,000 house fires start each year because of an electrical failure. According to our friends at Herschensohn Law Firm, PLLC, every home and commercial property owner should know the five most common signs of an electrical fire.


You can smell an electrical fire, even if you cannot see it develop. Components of an electrical system such as plastic parts and heat-resistant chemicals release a distinct, pungent scent that is easily detected. When an electrical system overloads, plastic parts melt due to overheating. Most electrical systems then respond by releasing heat-resistant chemicals that emit an odor described as fishy.

Flickering Lights

Although flickering lights get confused with the presence of paranormal behavior, the more rational explanation for flickering lights is a faulty electrical system. Several factors can cause lights to flicker, from one or more loose light bulbs to a socket that has lost its tight fit. The issue also can develop because of loose wires, an overloaded circuit, or a fluctuating circuit. Be proactive when you encounter flickering lights by contacting a licensed electrician.

Tripped Circuit Breaker

Whenever an electrical system experiences too much current flowing through a circuit breaker, the circuit breaker typically shuts down to account for a considerable overload of energy. Although circuit breakers do not usually trip as the result of a fire, you should consider the possibility that a fire has started to develop somewhere in the electrical system if one of your breakers trips. This is frequently caused by too many large appliances plugged into the same electrical outlet. Using a power strip to connect multiple appliances can cause overheating and fires.

Popping Sounds

Your ears can help you detect an electrical fire if you start to hear popping noises coming from one or more electrical outlets. Popping noises might indicate sparks are generated due to faulty wiring or a defective circuit breaker, Sparks flying out of an electrical system can ignite dry materials such as insulation and quickly catch on fire. If you hear popping sounds coming from one or more electrical outlets, act urgently to call for emergency electrical service.

Vibrating Outlet

Another indication of an electrical fire is an outlet that begins to vibrate. Any vibration coming from an electrical outlet might be a sign the outlet has started to overheat. Although you might not see an outlet vibrate, you should be able to hear a constant buzzing sound. Older houses that have not undergone any electrical upgrades for years often experience the highest number of electrical outlet issues. A licensed electrical technician can evaluate every outlet to determine whether your structure is vulnerable to fire danger.

These signs are not just restricted to homes, as a workplace Injury lawyer can share with you. Any building with electricity may encounter this hazard, and if you do so on the job and become injured, you should reach out to an attorney near you for help.