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Fire Prevention Week: Electrical Safety

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: October 10, 2019 10:41 PM

As Fire Prevention Week continues, WDIO is highlighting electrical fires and electrical safety tips to keep in mind at home.

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We use electricity every day, however, we need to be cautious when we use it, especially in our homes. Outdated electrical wiring is unsafe and can heighten the chances of a fire.

A fire in May of 2008 claimed the lives of three people in West Duluth. Investigators said the fire had started in the interior wall of the kitchen. They ruled the fire as accidental. A failure of an electrical circuit contributed to the fire.

Staying up to date on your wiring system is important.

“Some indicators could be popping a lot of breakers, maybe lights dim or flicker, those might be indicators to contact a licensed electrician,” said Duluth Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshal Jonathan Otis.

“The main electrical panel, if you look at that and it’s an old fuse box, that's an indicator you have really old wiring," said Jeremy Stolp, the president and CEO of Powerworks Electric.

Stolp has worked as an electrician for 25 years. Stolp said a lot of the older homes in Duluth have outdated and faulty wiring.

“In Duluth, many homes have knob and tube wiring, it’s good to look at your knob and tube wiring and if at all possible, replace it. I strongly recommend to replace it,” said Stolp. “You see a lot old two-prong receptacles. People plug things they shouldn't plug in it and they buy adapters."

Stolp said the National Electrical Code changes every three years. He said the Arc Fault Circuit Breakers, which detect faults, are required in any new home that’s built in today’s standards.

“Arc Fault Circuit Breaker can detect faults quickly. They’re not required in older homes and a lot of old homes here don’t have them. It goes back to the main reason I say to upgrade your main electrical panel,” said Stolp.

The National Fire Protection Association says to call a qualified electrician if these issues occur:

• Frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers

• A tingling feeling when you touch an electrical appliance

• Discolored or warm wall outlets

• A burning or rubbery smell coming from an appliance

• Flickering or dimming lights

• Sparks from an outlet

A common electrical mistake is overuse of extension cords, which are only supposed to be used temporarily and not as a long-term solution.

“Especially if people run them under rugs or furniture or other heavy things, they break down the cord and over time you get resistance heating which can cause the carpet to catch on fire," said Duluth Fire Interim Deputy Marnie Grondahl.

Some of us are guilty of plugging in too many appliances into an extension cord. Or plugging multiple extension cords together. That increases chances of a fire to unfold.

“People string multiple ones together, and attach another extension cord to it, we call that daisy chaining. It accelerates the chances of a fire happening,” said Grondahl.

Electrical fires happen often. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 10 percent of home fires in Minnesota from 2013-2017 were caused by heating devices.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes. Local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 52,050 fires involving heating equipment each year in 2012-2016, accounting for 15% of all reported home fires during this time.

With the colder weather approaching, space heaters are a popular choice to stay warm, but should be used cautiously. Make sure you turn it off when you're not in the room or are going to bed.

“We want to see a space heater plugged directly into an outlet and we want to see a clear space around it, usually at least three feet of combustible materials in all directions,” said Otis.

Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional is also reccomended.

Electricity has done wonders to our lives, but using it responsibility, and making sure your home has updated electrical wiring is crucial and can make a difference in saving your life.

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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