I received a letter from a reader of this column who pointed out a hazard in the kitchen that I had not written about in a recent article on kitchen fires. The hazard mentioned are appliances that remain plugged in when there is no one in the kitchen, especially toasters. I do not have any statistics on the number of fires caused by plugged in appliances, but I do have a related story. A number of years ago, we had friends that lived on Ramblewood Rd. There was no one home when the house caught fire, and the fire went undetected for some time. In the end, the house would be completely destroyed. The cause, determined by fire investigators, was an appliance that had been left plugged in.
Mr. Plaschke wrote in his letter that for 27 years he had been living in a retirement community in Arizona. During that time, he said that there were “several very severe fires” caused by toasters that had been left plugged in when not in use. He went on to say that in each of these incidents, the homeowners were not home.
Anything plugged into a receptacle is plugged into a heat source. I remember being on duty at Station 14 one night, when a friend of mine called to tell me that he had a problem in his kitchen. Though he did not feel that he needed us to respond, he and I talked until he found the problem, which was an overheated part in the back of his refrigerator. As with the toasters that were mentioned, had they not been home, this could have ended in his house catching fire. We cannot unplug our refrigerator every time that we go out, but we can do everything possible to keep it clean and vacuumed out underneath.
Those small appliances, such as coffee makers, toasters, blenders, mixers and can openers, to name a few, can be unplugged after each use. As with anything, if any appliance is not working properly, then you should replace it. Plugging and unplugging appliances only takes a second and can be the difference between a fire and no fire. While I am on the subject of unplugging things, be sure not to pull a cord out of a receptacle, Instead, you should take hold of the plug and unplug it. Pulling on the cord will weaken the cord and plug over time, leading to a potential break and short-circuiting situation.
Thank you Mr. Plaschke for your letter. I will never be able to touch on every issue related to a particular subject that I write about, but I sincerely appreciate those who will take the time to write or contact me with something that they have experienced. Together, we will do everything possible to educate one another, hopefully preventing your home or my home from catching fire.