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What Does An Electrical Fire Smell Like?

By October 8, 2023November 5th, 2023No Comments
Power strip electrical fire.

No one wants to have a fire in their home.  Some fires can be prevented but sometimes electrical fires cannot.  An electrical fire refers to a fire that is caused by electrical equipment or wiring. It can occur due to various reasons and poses serious risks to both life and property.  What does an electrical fire smell like? It smells like a combination of burning plastic, electronics, or rubber.  If you smell this, you need to explore the source of the fire and put it out immediately.

Let’s learn more!

An electrical fire can happen if there is an overload.

What is An Electrical Fire?

An electrical fire is a fire that originates from faulty electrical equipment, appliances, or wiring. It is usually caused by overheating, short circuits, or electrical sparks.  Additionally, these fires can spread quickly and cause significant damage if not addressed promptly.

How Common Are Electrical Fires?

Electrical fires are relatively common and can happen in residential, commercial, or industrial settings. Also, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were an estimated 24,000 electrical fires reported annually in the United States between 2014 and 2018.

What Causes An Electrical Fire?

Electrical fires can be caused by various factors, including:

  1. Faulty wiring or outdated electrical systems.
  2. Overloaded circuits or extension cords.
  3. Damaged or exposed wires.
  4. Malfunctioning or poorly maintained electrical appliances.
  5. Improper installation or repairs.
  6. Natural disasters like lightning strikes.

Finally, it is important to identify and address these potential causes to minimize the risk of an electrical fire.

Plug with an electrical fire.

Signs That You May Be Dealing with an Electrical Fire

Recognizing early warning signs of an electrical fire is crucial for prevention and safety. Look out for the following signs:

  1. Frequent tripping of circuit breakers or blown fuses
  2. Flickering lights
  3. Burning smell or unusual odors
  4. Sparking or buzzing sounds
  5. Warm or discolored outlets or switches.
  6. Appliances or outlets that feel hot to the touch.

If you notice any of these signs, it is essential to take immediate action and ensure your safety.

What Does An Electrical Fire Smell Like?

Electrical fires often produce a distinct burning smell. Additionally, it can be described as a combination of burning plastic, rubber, or electronics. Also, the smell may vary depending on the specific materials involved in the fire.

Test Your Electrical Wiring For Possible Issues and Electrical Fires

Regular testing and maintenance of electrical wiring are essential to prevent potential fire hazards. Additionally, it is important to consider the following steps:

  1. Check for loose or damaged wires.
  2. Inspect outlets and switches for signs of overheating or damage.
  3. Avoid overloading circuits and use appropriate extension cords.
  4. Hire a licensed electrician for periodic inspections and upgrades.

By being proactive about electrical safety, you can minimize the risk of an electrical fire.

Check out the video before about loose wires causing fires.

Other Recommended Maintenance

Now that you know about what electrical fires smell like, let’s learn about some other areas of maintenance.  One of those is how to tell if a metal box is grounded.  To do this, you can purchase a tester at a hardware store.  Then, there are steps to follow to find out if the metal box is grounded.

Another is double-tapped breakers.  When looking at the electrical panel, if you see a breaker with two wires going into it this is a double-tapped breaker and not a good thing to have.  There are ways to fix it, which is good!

When to Call a Professional

If you suspect an electrical fire or encounter any concerning electrical issues, it is crucial to call a professional electrician immediately. Additionally, keep in mind that they have the expertise to handle electrical emergencies safely and efficiently.  Also, homeowners often are not sure how to handle major electrical issues so it is a good idea to contact a professional for help.


Understanding the causes and signs of electrical fires is essential for prevention and prompt action. By practicing electrical safety measures, conducting regular maintenance, and seeking professional help when needed, you can protect yourself and your property from the devastating effects of an electrical fire.  Also, while taking a look at electrical issues in your home, this is a great time to call on Bentley Home Inspection team for a home inspection in East Tennessee, and surrounding areas.