Electrical problems caused 45,000 home fires over the last five years. So far this year, Bradley County Firefighters have responded to numerous electrical fires and they say most of those fires could have been prevented.      

Firefighters said preventing electrical fires is easy. The key is making sure outlets are not overloaded and unused devices are unplugged.

“You can always believe you are safe, but you're not always safe,” said Troy Weathers a Bradley County homeowner.

Troy Weathers invited Channel 3 and the Bradley County Fire Department inside his home for an inspection. “I think it is a smart thing to do. It doesn't matter if your house is new or old, but especially if it has a lot of years on it.”

It's important to do routine checks for hazards. “I came in and checked each room to room, smoke detectors, checked the outlets, electrical panels,” said Battalion Chief Jeff Stewart.

Electrical fires can happen at any time and grow out of control, quickly. Stewart said some of the most damaging fires in the Tennessee Valley were sparked by household electronics. “Make sure we are not going to overload our outlets, make sure we don't overload our strips. Make sure there are no blankets laying around these space heaters, and stoves.”

But fires can also spark inside the walls. Families do not have any idea danger is lurking. “If you smell smoke, that rubber smell, you got a problem,” said Weathers.

Warning signs include dimming and flickering lights, discolored outlets and switches, outlets that are hot to the touch or outlets that do not work at all. “Mainly it is going to be an electrician. You want that electrician to come out and check the electrical areas,” said Stewart.

If your breaker trips regularly that could be a sign of trouble. It's vital to keep things away from the box, to avoid overheating. “I have some clothes next to the circuit breaker box. Which I had never thought about. He pointed out you have to have 36 inches of nothing close to that box,” said Weathers.

The number one thing you can do at home to avoid an electrical fire is to make sure your outlets are up to code, by installing Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, or GFCI plugs. “Designed so if something would to short out, like a hairdryer. If you are drying your hair, not necessarily drop it in water but if it would short out, if it didn't have the GFCI it would be electrocuting you like this. The GFCI will automatically kick it off because it shorted out.”

If you suspect problems in your home, your local fire department makes house calls. You can give them a call and set up an inspection.