Saturday April 25th was shaping up to be a nice day for most of us. Unfortunately not so much for my neighbor…
While doing some household chores, the power went out in part of the home. My neighbor went out to the garage to check the electric panel for a tripped breaker only to find a fire had started on his work bench. He realized that it was too big to put out by himself and while calling 911 the fire erupted to what you see in the photo. It took less than 1 minute to engulf the garage in flames.
Fortunately the three residents home at the time were able to escape unharmed. The impressively fast response from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services and the masonry construction of the home prevented the fire from destroying it. The fire damage was largely contained to the garage, although there was smoke and water damage in parts of the home. The home is not habitable. A vehicle was also destroyed.
This cause of the fire is attributed to an overloaded extension cord and an outlet strip/surge strip that was on the work bench. The resulting short circuit caused an electrical arc that ignited something on the workbench. The flames spread and caused a container of something to burst and spew flammable liquid which helped spread the fire to other combustible items in the garage.
What should you do to protect yourself, your family and your property?
- Loose connections and damaged wires cause arcing or short circuits.
- Inspect your appliances, cell phone charging cables, lamps, extension cords and outlet strips for fraying and broken wires.
- Make sure that plugs fit snugly in outlets.
- Replace worn extension cords with heavy duty cords.
- Never run extension cords under carpets or through areas where the wire can get damaged.
- Extension cords are meant for temporary use, if you need power in a location for long term/permanent use, have an electrician install a proper electrical outlet.
- Never sharply bend a wire at the plug or unplug a wire by yanking on the cord as this will break the wire and cause arcing.
- Unplug items when not in use, especially items that create heat such as toasters, coffee makers, hair dryers, curling irons and space heaters. When using these type of items do not leave them unattended.
- Store flammable liquids in proper containers and in well ventilated areas, away from heat sources.
- Do not store anything next your furnace or water heater, allow three feet of clearance around these appliances.
- Clean the lint filter on your dryer EVERY time it is used.
- When electric is in use, wires get warm and can get hot depending on the load. It is excessive heat that can cause the connections to become loose over time.
Consider having a licensed master electrician come to your home and inspect electrical connections to make sure they are tight. This would include all connections in the electric service panel as well as switches and outlets around the home. This is especially important if your home was built in the late 1950’s, 1960’s and early 1970’s as many have aluminum wiring. However, loose electrical connections are possible in any home old or new. Don’t forget about your smoke detectors!
With everyone staying home these days looking for things to do, make it a priority to take a look around your house for safety issues.