One of the easiest ways to protect yourself from the danger of electrical fires is to be aware of conditions in your home that can lead to fires. One of the most common of these conditions is a short circuit, or “short.” If you’ve ever accidentally contacted a bare wire and felt a shock, you’ve created a short circuit — a direct path from the power source to ground — with your body. This kind of short doesn’t usually cause a fire, thank goodness, because you jump back when you feel the current and break the flow of electricity. Other kinds of shorts can be more dangerous, though, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for them in your home.
A dead short occurs when a live wire comes in direct contact with a ground wire, for example in a poorly wired light fixture or a frayed electrical plug. In this situation, current flows directly from source to ground instead of through the light or the appliance, and can cause the wires to overheat. In a properly wired home, a fuse or circuit breaker will trip and prevent overheating and potential fire.
A limited short is when wires come into contact with each other in such a way as to cause a spark. The heat of the spark can melt the copper wire and ignite flammable material nearby. Limited shorts can be extra dangerous because they may not draw enough current to trip a circuit breaker.
To prevent shorts, get rid of appliances that have frayed cords … and have any home wiring done by a licensed electrical contractor.