Regaining power can spark fires

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Fire department officials urge area residents to continue to usecaution as power is slowly restored.

Although the number of fires caused by the restoration of powerto homes across the region has been low, thousands of people arestill without electricity and appliances left on when power wasdisrupted could still pose a fire danger.

“We’ve been looking for something like that, but I haven’tnoticed an increase (in the number of electrical fires),” saidBrookhaven Fire Chief Bob Watts. “It hasn’t been a problemhere.”

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Hugh Summers, a captain with the Monticello Fire Department,said electrical fires that can be directly attributed to therestoration of power have been few but some are questionable.

“We’ve only had one that we can track back to electricity beingturned on,” he said.

In that incident, the power company was still on the scene,noticed the fire and put it out, Summers said.

Fires caused by the restoration of power typically result fromeither a power surge sparking an electrical fire or peopleoverlooking a fire danger.

In other cases in the past, he said, fires have been caused whenpeople were cooking when the outage occurred and failed to turn offthe stove. Power is restored while they are at work, heating thecontents on the stove and erupting into flames.

That could be the case in another fire in the Lawrence Countyarea in which a stove caught fire and ignited the cabinets aboveit. Firefighters were able to limit the damage in the home to thekitchen but could not determine the cause.

“Either the stove shorted out or there was something on the eye.You really couldn’t tell,” Summers said.

Watts said the best way to prevent a fire caused by anelectrical surge when power is restored is to turn off the breakersinside the home until the electricity is turned back on.

“That would be the safest thing to do,” he said.

As an alternative, homeowners could ensure all appliances areturned off and unplugged, he said.