Watch Hill Fire Department
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WHFD Reminds Residents of Electrical Safety
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By Chief Robert Peacock
June 14, 2020

In light of a recent fire involving a malfunction in an electrical socket, Watch Hill firefighters are reminding residents to always dial 911 and request firefighters to respond if you notice a burning smell in your home.

In the recent incident, an electrical outlet malfunctioned. A slight burning smell had been noticed earlier in the day and increased in intensity until light smoke was visible. Upon investigation by the fire department, the outlet showed slight discoloring and soot stains on the front, deeper and darker discoloring and melting of the plastic on the side, and obvious signs of extensive melting and charring on the back.

Electrical burning smells in a house can be difficult to locate but often indicate a serious problem with the electrical system. The smell may resemble the scent of burning plastic. If you smell a burning odor in your house, please do not ignore it and please do not waste valuable time searching for a possible cause. Immediately dial 911 and ask for the fire department to respond.

The burning smell could be due to many things including malfunctioning light ballasts, exposed wiring, damaged wiring, wiring that was not installed correctly, an overload of the circuit, a foreign object touching the wires, or an actual fire in the walls.

There are other signs that there is a problem that may be noticed before or during the burning smell. These signs may include an outlet cover that is discolored, a tingling feeling when you first plug in electrical devices, an outlet that is hot to the touch, flickering or dimming lights, malfunctioning appliances, popping sounds, or sizzling sounds.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that electrical distribution and lighting equipment are the third leading type of equipment involved in residential fires. These fires also accounted for a disproportionate share of home fire deaths (approximately 20 percent) and direct property damage (approximately 20 percent), as well as civilian injuries (approximately 10 percent).

Our nations firefighters respond to an estimated average of 45,000 home fires each year that involve electrical failure or malfunction. These fires cause an estimated average of 440 civilian deaths and 1,250 civilian injuries each year as well as an estimated average of $1.3 billion in direct property damage every year.

An electrical fire can start small, but will often spread quickly with devastating results.

As with any possible indicators of fire including light smoke and/or burning smells, please evacuate your house immediately and call 911.

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