How Many Electrical Fires Per Year? [47 Electrical Fire Statistics]

Electrical fires are a type of house fire that strikes fear into the hearts of many homeowners.

A home electric fire can start from a loose wire, overloaded breaker, faulty outlet, defective panel box, or a myriad of other problems.

The majority of data in this guide is taken from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) which is the main non-profit that tracks fire data in the U.S.

The other major organization that tracks fires is the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and it will be noted if their data is added as a supplementary statistic.

Let’s get started with the key electrical fire statistics to understand the potential risks that lurk behind the flick of a switch.

Top 10 Electrical Fire Statistics (Editor’s Choice)

  • An average of 46,700 electrical fires occur each year.
  • An average of 390 deaths occur yearly due to electrical mishaps.
  • Electrical fires are the #1 cause of property damage resulting in 1.5 billion dollars of housing destruction each year.
  • 1,330 civilian injuries happen annually from electrical fires.
  • 13% of all home fires are a result of electrical malfunctions.
  • Electrical distribution devices like outlets, switches, and light fixtures are the cause of 49% of all electrical fires. [Other half was due to electrical faults related to appliances such as heaters, ovens, dryers, air conditioners etc.]
  • An electrical wire or cable insulation is the leading item that first catches on fire.
  • 10% of all fires from cooking were caused by an electrical malfunction.
  • Electrical wire or cable insulation was the 2nd leading item first ignited in a home fire.
  • 3 out of every 10 fires that had an electrical origin happened during cold weather from November to February.

How Many Electrical Fires Per Year?

On average, there are 46,700 residential fires each year that are a result of electrical malfunctions.

This means that about 128 fires occur each day that is a result of some type of electrical problem. 13% of all residential house fires in the U.S. are from electrical malfunctions.

These house electric fires are mostly from electrical equipment (outlets, electrical panels etc.) and lighting fixtures. The other half of electrical malfunctions are from household appliances such as ovens, dryers, range hoods, and HVAC equipment.

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Property Damage

Electrical fires are the leading cause of direct property damage and produce 1.5 billion dollars in property destruction on average every year.

The reason why electrical fires are more destructive than other types of home fires is that they spread quickly.

Electrical fires tend to spread along wires to other parts of the house increasing the total damage before it is put out.

What Causes Electrical Fires?

Almost half or 49% of all home electrical fires involve some type of electrical distribution device such as switches, outlets, light fixtures, electrical panels, and other parts of the home electrical system.

The remaining half of home electric fires involve electrical malfunctions of appliances such as heating equipment (space heaters, furnaces etc.), cooking appliances, fans, dryers, and air conditioners.

  • 49% – electrical distribution, lighting, and power transfer equipment
  • 15% – cooking equipment
  • 9% – heating equipment
  • 6% – fans
  • 3% – air conditioners
  • 3% – clothes dryers

When appliances or electrical equipment malfunctions, it is primarily a result of arcing.

An electrical arc happens when electricity jumps from one point of contact to another. This can happen from a loose connection, worn insulation, improper wiring, or a malfunctioning appliance.

When an electrical arc occurs, it can result in significant amounts of heat. And given enough time and closeness to flammable materials, the heat can eventually turn into a flame.

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Items That First Ignite

The majority of home electric fires start when an electrical wire or the insulation around it catches fire resulting in 33% of fires.

Here is the breakdown of items that first ignite due to electrical mishaps:

  • Electrical wire or cable insulation – 33%
  • Structure member or framing – 13%
  • Appliance housing – 9%
  • Insulation – 5%
  • Interior wall covering (excluding drapes) – 5%
  • Exterior wall covering – 4%
  • Unclassified structure component – 4%

The History of Electrical Fire Frequency

The incidence of electrical fires has decreased significantly since 1980 with a peak of 75,000 home electric fires.

The number of electrical fires has remained below 50,000 per year since 2008.

The main reasons for the decrease in electrical fires according to the USFA is due to greater usage of new fire fighting technologies.

The widespread use of smoke alarms, fire sprinkler systems, and other fire fighting equipment has greatly reduced the amount of fire events over the past 40 years.

When Do Electrical Fires Happen?

Electrical fires have the highest probably of occurring during the 4pm to 8pm time period.

However, the most fatalities happened when electrical fires happened between 12am to 8am when occupants were typically asleep.

Fires occurring during the 12am to 8am window only make up 22% of all home electric fires, but result in 53% of the fatalities.

In addition to the time period, electrical fires have the greatest likelihood of happening during December, January, and February or the coldest months of the year.

It is speculated that it may be related to the increased use of space heaters, electric baseboard heaters, increased holiday cooking, and holiday outdoor lighting.

Conclusion

Electrical fires result in an average of 46,700 home fires each year making up about 13% of all residential fires.

Home electric fires are also the leading cause of property damage resulting in 1.5 billion dollars of damage annually.

The speed of electrical fires tend to be much more destructive of property than other types of fires. These fires spread along electrical wiring inside the walls allowing them to easily spread to other parts of the home.

At Home Inspector Secrets, we recommend always hiring a qualified electrician for electrical work, avoid using extension cords or power strips improperly, and other common sense decisions can help keep our homes safe from electrical fires.

Sources

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