Tips to prevent an electrical fire before it's too late

Minot, ND - Whether it be more extension cords and power strips to keep the Christmas lights on, or the unfortunate event that your furnace goes out this winter, leading you to use space heaters, there are ways you can avoid the risks of electrical fires.

For one man, he learned the hard way.

"My wife saw a brown bubble here and smelled smoke, felt the heat, and that's when she got everyone out and called the fire department," Trent Pakkala said.

His living room is in rough shape after an electrical fire burned through the ceiling.

The furnace went out right before the weekend, so space heaters were the only option until Monday.

"We had one plugged in right here, one down in the other room downstairs and we did not know they were on the same circuit," he said.

"You can see the wire caught on fire and it burned through the tresses and burned down."

Minot's fire inspector said this is a common incident, especially during the winter time.

Minot Fire Inspector Stuart Hammer said, "When it comes to the electrical use in a home, we have to be aware of what's available and what we're asking to use with our appliances. We don't want to pull any more that what the wire is capable of handling."

For example, the breaker might be able to handle the voltage, but the wires cant.

At this time of year, more power is drawn from the breaker system with Christmas lights and decorations, so that could pull more than what the line is capable of and heat up the wiring.

"It's hard to really describe the importance of electrical safety and having things checked. Checking your outlets, making sure they're not cracked, they're not worn," said Hammer.

"Checking the cords occassionally, making sure they're not over heated on heaters or lamps or anything."

Hammer said occasional use of extension cords is okay, but to be sure to unplug them when you leave the house or go to bed at night.

"Extension cords should be used sparingly, they shouldn't be permanent wiring," he said.

When it comes to a breaker overload, Hammer said if your breaker box isn't labeled, you can test what each breaker controls by having one person switch the breaker and another to observe what that kicks on or off.

As for Pakkala's unfortunate event, Hammer said to have your furnace checked annually.

That will also prevent potential carbon monoxide issues.

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