The very thought of having a fire break out in your home is nothing short of terrifying. With most house fires, you have the ability to actually see the blaze, and then evacuate or attempt to contain the fire if it's safe to do so. But what about when you can't see the fire until it has already been burning for a while? Would you know what to do if a fire were to actually break out inside your walls?
How It Can Happen
There are a number of reasons why a fire can break out inside your walls. It might simply be that your wiring has become outdated. Older wiring might not be able to handle the amps necessary to power many contemporary, high-use electrical devices, causing an overload. It could also be that a rat or mouse has chewed through the insulation on your wires, rendering them potentially dangerous. Since the fire is contained within the walls, your smoke detectors will be of little use in this instance. The smoke from the fire would rise upwards into your ceiling cavity, and might not even be noticeable inside your home.
Even if you cannot see the smoke and your smoke detector has not activated, a mild burning smell is the most obvious sign that there might be a fire inside your walls. If you can roughly isolate the source of the smell, gently touch the walls inside the room. Do they feel hot? If so, it might be that a fire is blazing behind your plasterboard. So what should you do?
Turning off the Electricity
Go to your circuit breaker and turn off the electricity to the room in question. If your breaker doesn't allow you to isolate a particular room, shut off the electricity for your entire home. Call the fire department and wait outside. It's best to evacuate since it's impossible to know how serious the problem is, and you cannot know how quickly the fire might spread.
Fixing the Issue
It might be that the issue was simply a damaged cable that had begun to smoulder, as opposed to an actual fire. The fire department will of course be able to detect the issue and extinguish any blaze. You will need to call an electrician immediately because the problem can quickly reoccur if rewiring is not performed at the earliest possible opportunity.
Such an incident is something that you will hopefully never have to deal with. But if it were to happen, it's vital that you take appropriate, immediate action.