No partiality

We have seen the news reports of two large houses, one in Chesterfield and one in Henrico that caught fire recently. Both fires had an accidental electrical cause, though both incidents were totally different. One involved the charging of a battery that must have shorted out. The other fire was caused by an electrical problem, but I do not remember hearing the exact reason. The bottom line is that fire is not a respecter of neighborhood or the size of one’s home; it strikes large and small alike.

Electricity is present in every home, which means that a heat source is present in practically every structure built. All that is left is a problem with the flow of electricity, and a fire is likely to occur. It could be a nail or staple through a wire or a motor that seizes and overheats. Whatever the problem is, electrical issues cause many building fires, each and every year. In most cases, wires are encased in walls, with the only indication of a problem being that a receptacle or a light does not work. Another indication of an electrical problem might be a breaker that trips.

When electrical problems are noted they must be fixed. Whether you are qualified to fix a problem, or you must call in an electrician, unaddressed electrical issues can potentially cause a fire. As stated before, some electrical problems are hard to detect, making them even more difficult to fix. Sadly enough, the first indication of an electrical problem may be a fire. What must happen then is that the fire must be detected quickly, and everyone in the building must take the appropriate actions. When a fire is detected, what are the basics?

  • Turning off a switch or turning a breaker off will possibly de-energize the affected circuit or item where the problem exists. A problem may be that the fire has extended beyond the point of origin.
  • Properly placed and operating smoke alarms are vital to early detection of a building fire. The problem here is, what if the fire begins in the crawl or attic space, where smoke alarms are usually not installed?
  • As I have stated many times before, it is you and your family’s job to get out of a burning building and stay out. It is the fire department’s job to fight a fire. You must have a practiced home escape plan.
  • Bottom line, buildings can be rebuilt, people cannot.

One other issue with electricity is when power is lost and then restored. I won’t discuss the problems that can occur from improper use of generators. I want to focus on the moments after power has been restored. Whatever was on when the power went off, will be on when the power is restored. One of the big problems are the burners on a stove top. If you forget to turn these burners off, they will come back on, when the power comes back on, whether you are at home or not.

Electrical issues are common fire causes. You might not be able to see it, but it is always there. Detected problems need to be fixed. A problem that may not be detected until a fire occurs must cause us to ensure that detection devices are in place. Big houses, small houses, poor neighborhoods and affluent neighborhoods all fall victim to the fire problem. Do not be caught off guard. 

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