Electrical fires are fire outbreaks which are usually caused by malfunctioning electrical fixtures and appliances. They are one of the most common causes of fire in developed parts of the world that have access to constant electricity. Electrical fires are not caused by overtly visible factors such as open flames, instead, they are often caused by faults which may not be easy to detect until a fire has occurred. This makes them very dangerous, as their warning signs may not be very obvious until it is too late. And so, it would be helpful if electrical fires could be smelt.


An electric fire can be caused by many things, most of which are related to electricity and electrical devices. Many of them are not visible until an actual fire has broken out. Likewise, many of them cannot be easily predicted. The most common of these causes include the following:

  • Wiring

Faulty or outdated wiring can constitute a fire outbreak. This is because a spark is likely to occur when wires that should not be in contact touch each other. Other cases of faulty wiring can also result in a dangerous outbreak of fire (for instance, when wires of low quality are used and they burn because they cannot withstand the electric current flowing through them, or if an old building is not rewired during renovation and the old wiring cannot withstand the electrical demands of the renovated building and so on). Electrical fires due to faulty wiring can be prevented by taking precautions like rewiring an old building and by enduring that the wiring of a building is done by a true professional; someone who not only has the skills but also the qualifications to adequately execute the proper wiring of a building. Also, regular scheduled checks should be carried out to check that there are no points of electricity leakage or faulty wiring, particularly when subtle signs of wiring problems are detected or suspected (particularly when such problems are exhibited through the behavior of electrical appliances and light fixtures).

Fire outbreak due to faulty wiring can sometimes be smelt as sparks from wirings have a tendency to melt the outward plastic casings of wires during the fire outbreak. Thus, this kind of fire can sometimes be detected from the persistent and lingering smell of burning plastic in the air. Such smell should be taken seriously, and when detected, the circuit breaker must immediately be used to stop the flow of electricity throughout the building. Also, the services of a qualified electrician should be employed at once in order to check out the smell, especially when you are unable to locate the source of the smell on your own.

  • Light fixtures

In a lot of instances, faulty light fixtures have resulted in the outbreak of electrical fires. This usually happens when electricity flows into a building at a very high current and voltage which the materials of the light fixtures cannot withstand. In this kind of cases, the high voltage and current of the electricity supplied usually makes the lights shine with a very strong intensity before the bulbs suddenly explode. An explosion like this can lead to an electrical fire if the resultant sparks get onto surfaces and items that can catch fire.

As with fire outbreak from faulty wiring, a fire from faulty – or exploding – light fixtures often happens suddenly and without warning. And so, the switches of light fixtures must be switched off as soon as a sudden, alarming spike in the intensity of the light in electric bulbs is detected.

Unlike the case with fire outbreak from faulty wiring, the smell of burning plastic may not be detected before or during the occurrence of fire from faulty or malfunctioning light fixtures. It may happen rather suddenly. However, in some instances, the smell of burning plastic may be perceived.

  • Faulty appliance

Faulty appliances are one of the most common causes of electrical fires around the world. A number of things may cause this kind of fire outbreak, from wet plugs to wiring problems within the electrical appliances themselves. In other instances the voltage and current of electricity flowing out of sockets may be much higher than the wattage or capacity of electrical appliances, and this may blow their fuse and cause sparks that can set things on fire.

Another risk that can result from faulty appliances is the conductance of electricity throughout a person’s body, since direct physical contact with faulty and malfunctioning electrical appliances can result in a person sustaining an electric shock.

Regardless, not electrical fires resulting from faulty appliances can be smelt, since there might not be enough time to make out the smell of burning plastic even if it does present itself.

  • Improper use of extension cords

Improper use of extension cords is another situation that can lead to the outbreak of electrical fires. Extension cords are one of the most common household electrical items. However, when too many appliances are plugged into one extension cord for very long periods of time, the fuse of the extension cord may blow and sparks may occur. These sparks may then result in an electric fire outbreak. One ways of preventing this is to treat extension cords as temporary electrical tools that should not be used for very long periods or for too many electrical appliances at a time.



Ultimately, it stands to reason that electrical fires can be smelt especially when they involve extensive burning of the plastic casings of electrical wires and smoke is emitted. As a matter of fact, sometimes, an electric fire will give off so much smoke that its cause cannot be ignored, even in the absence of fire. However, sometimes, no visible smoke is emitted and there are other instances when the smell of burning plastic is present in the air but the source of the electrical fire is not easily locatable. In all of these instances, the services of a qualified electrical expert are required and must be employed immediately.

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