How does a cable fire start?

A cable fire often goes unnoticed at first and is therefore a frequent cause of fire.

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2 May 2024 Fire Safety

A cable fire is a serious hazard that often goes unnoticed but can cause devastating damage. According to the Institute for Loss Prevention and Damage Research in Germany, around a third of fires in 2022 were caused by electricity, often a cable fire. A further 10% were caused by overheating, while more than 20% were due to human error.

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Causes at a glance

A cable fire can have various causes, including weak power lines, overloading of the lines, cable breaks, loose terminal connections and cheap, poorly processed or worn cables. Another trigger for cable fires is often a short circuit, which can be caused by incorrect wiring or damaged insulation.

Good to know: In the commercial sector, electrical appliances must be tested regularly in accordance with DIN VDE 0701-0702. Damage etc. to power cables and electrical appliances can often be detected at an early stage.

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How do you recognize a cable fire?

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Early detection of a cable fire is crucial to prevent damage and save lives. One warning sign to look out for is an unusual smell of burnt plastic or rubber.

In addition, loose contacts, i.e. unstable connections or sudden failures of electrical devices can indicate a cable fire. Furthermore, blown fuses and crackling noises when switching on or off are an indication of overloaded or damaged cables. 

Preventive measures to avoid cable fires!

A cable fire can often be avoided or detected in good time through attentive behavior. Here are some important steps to take to prevent cable fires.

  • Regularly check electrical cables, sockets and appliances for signs of wear, damage or overloading.
  • Avoid overloading by distributing the electrical load evenly over the available circuits and avoid overloading sockets.
  • Use high-quality materials, i.e. invest in high-quality electrical components and cables that meet safety standards. Cheap or inferior materials can wear out more quickly and pose a higher fire risk.
  • Correct installation, i.e. only have electrical installations carried out by qualified professionals and ensure that all cables are properly routed and insulated.  

Important: Never try to extinguish a cable fire with water. Water conducts electricity and can lead to life-threatening situations. Instead, use a fire extinguisher if you are sure how to use it.

Do you still have questions about how a cable fire occurs?

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1Source: Institut für Schadenverhütung und Schadenforschung der öffentlichen Versicherer e.V. (IFS); fire cause statistics, URL: