The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

January 10, 2014

Outlets may hide fire hazard

DANVILLE — Tuesday’s Ash Street house fire was caused by malfunctioning electrical wiring and an overloaded outlet, though these instances are not isolated to the winter.

“Electrical fires happen any time of the year,” said Leslie Young, chief of Mahoning Township’s East End Fire Company. Overloaded circuits are the biggest causes of electrical fires during this time of year, she said, and outlets shouldn’t have more appliances plugged into them than they were built for.

Electrical fires have a very distinct odor. “When they burn, you can smell the wires,” she said. “If you happen to touch an outlet and it feels warm, you might want to get an electrician in to look at it,” she said.

The warm outlet doesn’t necessarily indicate an electrical fire, but it could indicate another problem.

The fire department can also be called if a wall or outlet is hot to the touch. Firefighters can use a thermal imaging camera to look behind the wall to check for flames, or safely remove the outlet cover to look for charring or melted wires.

If a person notices an outlet smoking, they can try to shut their home’s power off, but only if its safe, said Young. Otherwise, if they see signs of a fire, they should call 911.

Jeff Kline, owner of Danville’s AMK Electric, also had advice for avoiding electric fires. “If your plugs are getting warm to the touch, you should stop using that appliance,” he said. “You can definitely tell something is wrong if it feels warm to the touch.”  

If plugs are loose in an outlet, the outlet needs to be replaced. A loose connection can result in overheating and poses a fire hazard.

Electrical wiring does not need to be checked on a regular basis, only when a person believes there is an issue with their wiring, he said.

The National Fire Protection Association also has the following electrical safety tips up on their website at http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/causes/electrical/electrical-safety-in-the-home/electrical-safety-tips. In homes with small children, tamper-resistant receptacles should be used on outlets and only one high-wattage appliance should be plugged into an outlet at a time. In addition, extension cords should not be run across doorways or under carpets if possible as they are more likely to be damaged there.

Tuesday’s fire occurred at the home of Linda Rogers, of 117 Ash Street. Rogers was away from the house at the time. Her two cats, the only other occupants of the house at the time, were rescued by firefighters.

Email questions or comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.

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