Causes of loss 2018

Grinnell Mutual identifies top causes of fire loss in 2018

In 2018, the U.S reached record-high electrical use, generating almost 4.18 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity. And as people use more electricity to power their appliances and devices, they also increase their risk of an electrical fire.

In fact, electrical fires were the leading cause of loss in 2018, according to Grinnell Mutual’s Special Investigations department. Electrical mishaps caused 105 of the 573 total cases they investigated in 2018.

2018 causes of loss

Special Investigations also determined that other fires were caused by combustibles near a heat source (39), cooking (26), and incendiary (20) were also causes of loss. A majority of fire cases they investigated had a determined cause of loss.

How do electrical fires start?

According to research by the National Fire Protection Administration, fires caused by electrical equipment — wiring, lighting, cords, and plugs — is the top cause of property damage in home fires in the United States.

The U.S. Fire Administration found that electrical fires have a variety of causes including electrical system failures, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. Electrical appliances can also cause electrical fires due to defects, misuse, or poor maintenance.

To prevent electrical fires, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers these recommendations:

  • Use the recommended wattage for bulbs in light fixtures.
  • Place portable heaters on a stable surface and ensure it is out of the flow of traffic.
  • Do not use electrical appliances that have odd smells, sparks, or smoke when you operate them.
  • Replace cords that are damaged, cracked, or frayed.
  • Replace outlets and switches that are warm or not working properly.

Water can also cause electrical fires when combined with a live circuit. And since water is a great conductor of electricity, it can spread the fire. Always keep electrical equipment away from water and dampness and cover any exposed wires.

In addition to starting fires, electrical currents can shock you. Always use caution when working near electricity and make sure your grounding system is appropriate. If you work on electrical equipment, consider wearing rubber gloves and boots. And never operate electrical equipment while you are standing in water.

How to put out an electrical fire

If you discover an electrical fire in your home or business:

  1. Call 911.
  2. If it is safe to do so, use a Class C fire extinguisher. Class C is the type of fire extinguisher designed for electrical fires. Never use water to put out an electrical fire.
  3. If it is safe to do so, shut off the power source.

If a loss seems suspicious

If you suspect fraud or arson, report it to local law enforcement. Next, call your insurance agent or company or the state insurance department. You can also call Grinnell Mutual's Fraud and Compliance hotline at 855-467-2372.

Our Fraud and Arson Award program provides up to $10,000 for providing timely and credible information that leads to a conviction about a fraudulent or criminal loss to people or property insured by Grinnell Mutual or one of our member mutuals.


Report fraud or arson