Fire prompts extension cord safety reminders

This overloaded electrical outlet caught fire Friday at the Fast Break.
Staff Writer

An electrical fire Friday night at the Fast Break convenience store on Highway 45 Alternate has West Point firefighters reminding area residents about safety and proper extension cord use.

"You'd be amazed at what all people will plug into an extension cord or a surge protector and then be surprised when something goes wrong," Fire Chief Ken Wilbourne said.

"And they don't think about how other things will impact a cord," Fire Inspector Ted Judson added.

Judson has plenty of examples to demonstrate and not just Friday's fire, which burned out a socket that apparently had several freezers running through it.

Among others, he holds up a wound up extension cord that is melted around a sock with carpet charred to the bottom of it.
A family had a washer and dryer plugged into the extension cord and a laundry basket sitting on top of it.

The cord got hot and melted.
In another case, a surge protector over heated and caught fire when it was overloaded with a curling iron, hair dryer, phone charger and other items.
"Hair dryers and heaters and things like that use a lot of electricity, they heat up really quickly.

The best thing to do is plug them in by themselves and then unplug them when you are done using them," Hudson explained.
"This surge protector didn't shut off or trip the breaker in the house because it overheated internally," he added.

Both veteran firefighters recommended closely checking UL ratings and listings on surge protectors and extension cords. Some cheaper knock-off brands are more susceptible to fires, they said.
Repeatedly overloading electrical outlets also is a recipe for trouble.

Eventually, the socket will short out and catch fire, Hudson advised, holding up another charred electrical remnant that was an overloaded two-plug outlet.

"They aren't just unlimited," Hudson stated.

The department has a simple, easy-to-read safety brochure that offers helpful tips for around the home and business. It covers everything from monthly checks to how to put out a small electrical fire. The brochures can be picked up at Fire Station 1 on Brame Avenue.