How Animals in the Attic Can Cause a House Fire
Summary: SERVPRO of Waxahachie/Midlothian cautions homeowners about animals that can cause house fires.
The team at SERVPRO of Waxahachie/Midlothian is highly experienced at providing fire damage restoration for homes and businesses. A commonly overlooked cause of fires is rodents. Squirrels, rats, and other small pests can gnaw at electrical wiring, exposing live wires. Property owners may not realize the unseen structural damage and dangerous conditions that rodents can create in the attic, crawl space, and walls of a home, business, or other structure.
Rats, mice, and squirrels are the most common uninvited intruders. Generations of squirrels may populate an attic or crawl space. Other “guests” include raccoons, chipmunks, bats, and flying squirrels. Groundhogs, possums, and skunks can present challenges, too. Bird infestations in the attic are not so common, but they do occur.
A Nighttime Nuisance
Rodents and other animals can be a nuisance when they find or make a way into a home. They keep the family awake by scurrying in the walls and in the ceiling and attic during the night. Small children can be disturbed from sleep at night or from an important afternoon nap during the day. Some of the noises, fighting, and gnawing can be frightening to residents.
Rats and mice raid food stores in the pantry, on shelves, and in cabinets. The food contaminated by their body fluids and feces is ruined and should be immediately discarded. If left to roam and reproduce, the unwanted guests can quickly create more and more inhabitants that contribute to the problem.
Rats, mice, squirrels, and chipmunks have teeth that continue to grow throughout their lifespan. Much like fingernails that always need clipping, a rodent’s teeth need to be constantly gnawing and chewing to keep the teeth growth in check. Rodents that are unable to constantly chew or gnaw will grow teeth so long that eating becomes impossible. As a result, the creatures will starve to death.
This constant need to gnaw means that a nest of squirrels, a pack of mice or rats, or a family of raccoons can very quickly damage personal belongings, chew through support beams, gnaw insulation to pieces, pierce pipes and tubing, and even cut through electrical wiring with their razor-sharp incisors. Compared to metal pipes, which rodents sometimes chew, a strand of wire coated with softer insulation is a delicacy.
Plugging a hole in the eaves of the roof, sealing cracks in the foundation, or repairing the obvious damage to gnawed timbers or shredded insulation is manageable for the homeowner or the critter control specialist.
On the other hand, locating gnawed wiring may be virtually impossible due to the inaccessibility of much of the wire behind walls, under insulation in the attic, or concealed under the home in the crawl space. The observant homeowner may find some evidence of wiring that has been gnawed or chewed. Of course, the wiring issue should be repaired. The larger question relates to wiring throughout the remainder of the home. Without inspecting every inch of wiring, the results could be shocking!
How a Fire Starts
Electrical wiring can become hot when electricity is flowing through it. The plastic insulation prevents the heat in the wire from igniting nearby objects. When a rat or mouse has gnawed away the insulation leaving bare wire, the heat from the wire or a spark from a short circuit can ignite insulation or other debris near the wire. Sometimes, a hot wire resting against a wooden support beam is enough to start a house fire over time.
Solutions That Work
- Eliminate the risk by removing the intruders.
- Identify and seal any actual or potential entry points.
- Contact a certified electrician to inspect the damage and make any electrical repairs.
- Contact a property damage restoration specialist to clean up the mess left by the “guests.”
- Contact the fire and water damage specialists at SERVPRO of Waxahachie/Midlothian in case the worst happens — a fire caused by exposed wires gnawed by a rodent or other uninvited guest. Fire and water damage are traumatic. Securing the services of experienced professionals who know how to handle the incident from initial inspection and assessment to the completion of the restoration project brings much-needed peace of mind.
For more information about biohazard cleanups, fire damage, and water damage, visit the SERVPRO of Waxahachie/Midlothian website at https://www.SERVPROwaxahachiemidlothian.com. The office can be reached by phone at (972) 935-0827.