Overloaded Wall Adapter Sparks Chatsworth Blaze

Friday, August 04, 2006 |

On Friday, August 4, 2006 at 10:31 PM, four Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, two LAFD Rescue Ambulances, one Hazardous Materials Squad, one EMS Battalion Captain and one Battalion Chief Officer Command Team under the direction of Battalion Chief Patrick Engel responded to a Structure Fire at 22037 Gledhill Street in Chatsworth.

Firefighters arrived quickly to discover heavy fire showing from a two-story single family dwelling.

An aggressive and well-coordinated interior fire attack supported by strategic ventilation allowed thirty-one Firefighters to confine flames to the first floor room of origin and extinguish the blaze in less than twenty minutes.

There were no injuries.

Witnesses statements were initially taken to infer that a total of six persons, including four adults and two children, had been poolside in the rear yard of the home when they heard a Smoke Alarm activation from within the residence.

Promptly investigating the sound, the adults discovered the home to be charged with smoke and wisely retreated, remaining in the safety of the yard while immediately contacting 9-1-1 from their cell phone.

This timely 9-1-1 call was received by Firefighter/Dispatchers prior to a pair of calls from an alarm monitoring service.

The brisk 9-1-1 notification and response, combined with meticulous salvage efforts by Firefighters within the home during the blaze, limited fire damage to just $75,000 ($50,000 structure & $25,000 contents).

The one male and one female displaced by the flames stated a desire to seek accommodations with relatives.

The cause of the blaze is categorized as electrical, and attributed to an overloaded multiple-outlet wall adapter used in a home office.

Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department

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Anonymous said...

It's amazing that they got through to a 911 operator via cellphone in less than 15 minutes! Using your cell phone is about as reliable as using one of these so-called monitoring services!

Anonymous said...

Brian, please note that the monitoring facility received the fire signal at 10:31:14 PM, and conveyed the alarm to your operator 89 at 10:32:15 (call it 1 minute). You may have received bad information as a second fire signal was reeived at 10:40:21 PM and that was also conveyed to your operator 47 at 10:42:20 PM (two minutes, and that was a followup call). Even that was NOT 15 minutes as stated. I believe Sentry Scientific Security, Inc. and our monitoring facility did a great job. You might note that the family was NOT out back at the pool (They were nearly asleep after a family outing that day. They had returned about an hour before the fire) They believe that they were alerted to the fire by the smoke sensor that caused the fire signal to be sent to the monitoring facility.
Don Hayes, Pres.,
Sentry Scientific Security, Inc.

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Mr. Hayes:

Thank you for writing. With your input, I am pleased to clarify our earlier post.

Please know that the account of the family's action was shared with me by Chief Engel.

The local-sounding of the alarm sensor did indeed spur initial awareness of the fire by his account - and likely saved lives and clearly minimized property loss.

The first report to our agency came via the resident's cell phone at 22:31:35 and fire units were instantly dispatched.

Though I have yet to specifically listen to the calls in question on our logger (we do receive thousands of calls each day), I show some non-specific activity to our Dispatch Center's Console #16 and LAFD Dispatcher #89 at 22:32:15, at which time our units were already responding.

This is likely the call you have brought to our attention.

The next and clearly distinct alarm company call that mentions an "alarm activation" at the address in question came from Alarm Company Operator #252 to our Console #7 at 22:45 hours, approximately fourteen minutes after the initial 9-1-1 call. Hence my math.

Please know that we appreciate and respect your personal and professional efforts, which often represent the teamwork necessary to save lives.

We do however, strongly suggest that if residents have only one choice, and can do so safely, that they call 9-1-1 from a safe remote location rather than attempt to manually trigger an alarm system.

Furthermore, we stress that no one should rely solely rely on an automatic system relaying general information to take the place of specific information offered via first-person conversational contact with a trained and certified 9-1-1 calltaker.

Thanks again Mr. Hayes, for your timely and polite account of the events of that evening.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Anne said...

My first post disappeared. What should we know about overloading an outlet, so we don't do it? A lot of people work at home these days. I have electrical outlets that have two strip surges plugged in, each with 8-12 plug slots. That's twenty-four devices working at the same time. If this isn't safe, it would be good to know about it. Thanks!

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...


Thanks for the note. Sorry for your earlier message getting misrouted. :(

You pose an *excellent* question, which we ourselves sought to have answered formally by a Licensed Electrical Contractor friend of the LAFD who deals with these issues in his daily business.

Though he politely declined to be identified by name or respond personally in this thread, he suggested the CPSC and their electrical extension cord fact sheet, as well as the Eletrical Safety Foundation, and wanted us to mention that while Building & Safety Codes vary by region among our international audience, common sense and a need for personal safety does not.

For the benefit of others reading this reply, he went on to affirm our notion that a Licensed Electrical Contractor is a far better source of on-site information for most homeowners than a generic handyman or even a Neighborhood Firefighter .

He said "If you have any doubt about the safety of electrical power or an appliance in your home, call a Licensed Electrical Contractor."

For expertise and peace of mind sake, we're inclined to agree.

He also echoed many of the informational tidbits we routinely offer...

- Read and carefully follow the instruction manual that came with your appliance(s), paying special attention to items marked 'caution' or 'warning'.

- Use only the power cords that were designed for and came with your appliance.

- Do not modify any plug or use an adapter unless clearly indicated as acceptable in the instructions.

- Never run an extension cord under a rug, over a nail or stapled to the wall.

- If an electrical cord or plug becomes worn, frayed, appears melted or exposes its inner wiring, the appliance should be safely unplugged and remain unpowered pending professional repair.

- If turning on one or more appliances cause lights to dim or another identifiable impact on your electrical service, make an appointment for an on-site inspection by a Licensed Electrical Contractor.

- If you smell or see smoke - and you can do so safely, turn off all power and call the Fire Department at 9-1-1.

...and as for the question about how many 'power strips' can be used?

Our Licensed Electrical Contractor friend said that unless someone in his craft did an on-site inspection, he would suggest no more than one extension cord or power strip be used per wall outlet - and only then if there was no obvious impact from doing so (i.e. dimming lights, tripped circuit breakers or fuses, etc.).

He further suggested, in the interest of safety that no more than one major appliance (?) be used per wall socket and described daisy chains of power strips (i.e. plugging a power strip into a power strip) as a genuine "recipe for disaster".

Well, there you have it.

We hope that our Licensed Electrical Contractor friend of the LAFD will join us on a future episode of LAFD TalkRadio, and be able to furthr explain the many concerns he experiences as an electrical professional.

Anne, thanks for writing, and for you patience in awaiting a reply. Please know that we're big fans of your blog, and are honored to have you link to ours.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

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