Overloaded Surge Protector To Blame

By: Alyssa Fenske Email
By: Alyssa Fenske Email

Appliances like space heaters, air conditioners, or refrigerators, should never be plugged into a surge protector.

LANSING (WILX)-- The man killed in Monday's deadly fire on N. Hayford St. in Lansing, has been identified as 65-year-old James Leach. Fire investigators say an overloaded surge protector was to blame.

The fire wasn't the first one this week related to electrical problems in Lansing, and it wasn't the first fatality this year.

"This is our second fatal fire related to overloaded surge protectors within the last year," said Eric Weber, spokesperson for the Lansing Fire Department.

Surge protecters are supposed to help protect devices from damage, but plugging too many things into it can be deadly. But overloading the device easier that most would think.

It doesn't depend on how many plugs are being used, it's all about how much electricity is surging through the device.

"Primarily just sensitive electronics should be plugged into a surge suppression system, like a PC, printer, or modem," said Karl Huffman, power protection specialist.

Appliances like space heaters, air conditioners, or refrigerators, should never be plugged into a surge protector. Waiting until it starts smoking, melting, or shorting out is too late according to Huffman.

"If you touch and it's warm, that's potential overload conditions," said Huffman.

Not all surge protectors are created equal. A good quality surge protector will have a thick cord, take fifteen amps or more, and have an automatic off switch if there's an overload.
They can be found at any home improvement store, and should rage between $10-40 dollars.

If you have a lot of smaller appliances that need to be plugged in, use several surge protectors to be safe.

"Electrical is one of the most common causes of fires, it's second to careless smoking and cooking. If you have smoke or fire call 9-1-1 and get out of the house, but if you think it's a long term problem call an electrical worker to inspect it," said Weber.

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