Although most people think of air conditioners as cooling devices, they can still ignite just like anything else that is powered by electricity. If you have kept up with the maintenance of your air conditioner, you may be very surprised to discover it when it is on fire. However, the fire could have been started by an arsonist, and that is why you need to do more than just dial 911 when you see the flames.
Shutting Off the Electricity and the Furnace
If you are able to do so without risk to life and limb, shut off the electrical switch in the fuse box that powers the A/C unit. If you can, shut off your furnace and the furnace's blower, too. This will help stop the flames and smoke from traveling into your home and cut the "fuel" that is keeping the flames going.
After the Fire Department Has Put out the Flames
After your local fire department has put out the flames, you will want to get some answers as to how the unit caught fire in the first place. Most units that catch fire do so as the result of a blocked drain hose that then leaks and short-circuits the electrical system. If you recently had maintenance performed on your unit and you know this cannot be the cause, file a report with the police. They will be able to conduct an investigation in conjunction with the local fire marshal's office that will ascertain the source of the flames. If an accelerant was used, as is often the case with arsonists, the fire marshall will see it, smell it and test your unit for traces of the types of accelerants most arsonists use.
Consulting with Your HVAC Contractor
While the police and fire marshall conduct their investigation, you can also ask the HVAC contractor that recently did work on your unit (like Kassel Appliance & AC Repair) to come take a look. You will need an air conditioning repair estimate to give to your homeowner's insurance company anyway. Ergo, it does not hurt to have the contractor take a second look at the unit and see where things went wrong. He might spot something the police and/or fire marshall missed in their hurry to determine if it was just a mechanical/electrical malfunction or the work of an arsonist. Once the source of the fire has been diagnosed and/or the police have an arsonist in custody, you will be able to file your claim with your insurance company and repair your air conditioner.