Bring in the Pros to Prevent Electrical Fires

By Holmes, Mike | Winnipeg Free Press, August 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

Bring in the Pros to Prevent Electrical Fires


Holmes, Mike, Winnipeg Free Press


They say where there's smoke there's fire. But when it comes to electrical fires, you don't always see the smoke. By the time you do, it's too late and the flames are climbing up behind your walls.

I was up north a couple of weeks ago. I stopped at a pub and it was completely renovated -- and not because they wanted to do a reno. They had no choice -- there had been an electrical fire. Luckily, no one was hurt. But the truth is, it should have never happened.

Twenty per cent of all fires in Canada are electrical fires. In my world, there wouldn't be any electrical fires because they're preventable if the right pros are brought in at the right time.

Faulty wiring is the No.1 cause of electrical fires. It's what caused the fire at the pub. Sometimes, fires are a result of poor workmanship. Other times, it's just wear and tear. But in any case, you need to be aware of the warning signs.

Here are the warning signs there's a problem with your wiring: flickering lights, breakers that always trip, fuses that always blow, a burning smell coming from appliances or in rooms, discoloured wall outlets, outlets that spark and outlets and switches that are hot to the touch.

The longer you wait to get them fixed, the greater the chance of an electrical fire.

Eventually, every home is at risk of an electrical fire, because electrical wires get worn out -- just like everything else.

Electrical currents generate waste heat. Over time, that heat can cause the conductor to expand and contract. Eventually it will loosen the connection. And once it's loose, the electricity can arc. When this happens, the potential for an electrical fire is huge.

One way we can prevent electrical fires caused by an electrical arc is with Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI). An AFCI is a circuit breaker that detects potentially dangerous electrical arcs. It disconnects the power as soon as it detects one.

Before AFCIs were introduced, the bedroom was where most electrical fires started. But in 2002 it became code to protect all circuits that feed outlets in bedrooms with AFCIs. Now, the kitchen and bathroom are where most electrical fires start.

It's code to have AFCIs in the bedroom, but in some states, such as Texas, it's code to have AFCIs protecting all the circuits in the home. This is what we need to see in our electrical codes. If we can protect the entire house, we should protect the entire house. It just makes sense.

Counterfeit electrical products can also cause electrical fires. But it's tough to prove when investigators come in after a fire to determine its cause. …

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