Note: The following Information was extracted from the IAEI Website and appeared in the IAEI News.


Report Of Electrical Accidents

From the media we often hear of accidents, tragic deaths and injuries, and costly events that result when an electrical product is faulty or is improperly used.
The following are reports taken from newspaper clippings or other sources.
The details in the articles vary and there may be a considerable amount of uncertainty with respect to the accuracy of the technical details. Both the history and usage of equipment being blamed for an incident are generally unknown and unreported such as previous repairs which may have altered the original construction, the need of repairs, the condition of use, environment, age, or whether the equipment was being used within the design specifications of the manufacturers.

Electrical Cord

A 16-year-old boy survived the fire that killed seven members of his family and burned three homes.

According to his later report, he awoke to find a pile of clothes on fire. The clothes were lying on an extension cord that ran from an electrical outlet near the family washing machine to a clock radio and light.

"The boy added that the extension cord would not work from time to time," the fire investigator said. "We're also examining the clock radio and utility light it was connected to."

The fire department captain said the fire might have been smoldering beneath the home for more than an hour before igniting the home. A next-door neighbor said he stepped outside his home twice before the fire began because he had smelled smoke. Remains of a smoke detector were not found in the debris.

Nailed Extension Cord

An extension cord nailed to a teenager's bedroom wall caught fire, causing $10,000 in damage to a home.

The house fire began about 10 a.m. Sunday. One of the family's sons had nailed an extension cord to the wall to install a "black light" in the basement bedroom. He nailed the cord between its two internal wires, causing it to generate heat over several weeks, and finally catch on fire, fire officials said.

The fire began while the teens played games upstairs with friends. The boys broke a basement window and fed an outside hose into the bedroom, putting out the flames.

The fire damaged a bed, television, and wall, and caused smoke damage throughout the home.

Fire officials warn homeowners never to attach extension cords to a wall with nails.

Editor's note: NEC® Section 400-8 prohibits the use of flexible cords where attached to building surfaces.

Overloaded Cord or Outlet Suspected

An electrical cord or outlet overloaded with Christmas lights probably sparked a fast-moving fire that trapped and killed a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old boy. Both died from smoke inhalation.

Fire officials said their preliminary investigation showed an overloaded or worn outlet or possibly a faulty extension cord caused the fire. Investigators said the small frame house had no smoke detectors.

Two adults in the house, aided by neighbors, battled the intense heat and smoke to save four other young children but could not reach the last two boys.

The stepfather of one of the boys discovered the flames around 3 a.m. near a living room electrical outlet connected to an extension cord running to the outside Christmas lights, fire officials said.

Family members said they didn't remember whether the lights were on when they went to bed but told fire officials that they usually left them burning.

A fire official recommends using only extension cords specified for outdoor use for external lights. Extension cords or outlets that look worn or that spark should be replaced.

A fire department spokesman said, "Inspect them (cords) regularly, and if there is ever any question about a cord, throw it out."

Faulty Electrical Wiring

A single-story frame house fire shortly after midnight left one man dead of smoke inhalation and his house heavily damaged.

The fire chief said the fire was caused by a short in the electrical wiring. Heavy fire was coming out of the rear of the house when crews arrived on the scene. Crews were on the scene for three or four hours.

Electric Meter May Have Sparked Fire

A fire began in the basement of a 3-4 story building shortly after 9 a.m., and took firefighters the rest of the day to bring under control. Fifteen firefighters received minor injuries fighting the blaze.

The fire commissioner said the fire may have been sparked by an electric meter in the basement.

The fire that gutted the building was brought under control at 6 p.m. Three hours later the building collapsed, nearly crushing four firefighters, an official said. The collapse also brought down the side wall of the building next door.

Electrical Short in Extension Cord

An electrical short in an extension cord between a six-outlet power strip and a television set caused a fatal fire, concluded fire department investigators.

The 83-year-old resident of the home died of smoke inhalation.

A fire investigation report indicated that the extension cord had been run under two decorative metal plates, which were under the back two legs of a chair in the room. The metal plates caused a short in the cord, which created an electrical arc that ignited the surrounding area.

Extension cords should never be covered with furniture, carpets, or other materials, according to fire safety experts.

The fire was reported by a neighbor who noticed flames in the home's living room

Electrocution at Poolside

A 47-year-old woman died after she was electrocuted, fire officials said.

The woman was in the family's pool with her daughter in the evening. She got out of the pool to unplug a filter and was electrocuted, said a fire department lieutenant.

Her daughter began screaming, and a neighbor called for help. CPR was performed on the scene. The woman was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Heating Unit Shorted Out

A newspaper circulation truck driver alerted the fire department when he saw smoke in a home garage while delivering newspapers. The family was not at home.

The 3:55 a.m. fire was caused by a heating unit that shorted out in a dog kennel behind the garage, the home owner said. Losses were estimated to be $25,000 for contents and $25,000 in damages to the structure.

The home owner said the fire would have consumed his house in another five minutes. Fire was making its way to the rafters when the blaze was extinguished. The home sustained considerable smoke damage. Fortunately, the family's pets and vehicles were not in the garage, he added.

Toaster Oven Causes Fire

A mother and her two children were left homeless by a fire that gutted their apartment.

According to the fire chief, the fire was reported at 5 p.m. by a neighbor who spotted the smoke. The fire started in the kitchen area with a toaster oven. While the fire was contained to the kitchen area, the entire apartment was damaged by smoke, heat, and water. There was a working smoke detector inside.

No one was at home at the time of the fire, and no injuries were reported. The fire was stopped before it spread to other apartments in the complex.

The fire chief said the fire originated in a toaster oven that was left plugged in long after the occupant went to work at her second shift job. She left the home around 1 p.m. and said the toaster oven does not have an on or off switch. It is turned on when plugged in and off when unplugged.

The fire chief said that was a dangerous appliance and said he checked local stores and found that those toaster ovens are no longer sold. He said now the appliances either come with an on or off switch or a heat sensor automatic turn-off, which is the safest appliance.

Electrical Heater

An early morning fire Sunday gutted a home and killed an elderly woman and her son.

Their house was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived on the scene about 4 a.m., authorities said.

Investigators said it appeared the fire was ignited by an electrical heater placed too close to a bed and the wall of a first floor bedroom, according to a detective of the city police department's bomb and arson unit.


A 41-year-old man was electrocuted while working under a sink, said the sheriff's department. The man was killed when he apparently came into contact with an electrical circuit while working at the home.

Extension Cord Ignites Fire

According to fire officials, a fire which heavily damaged a home in the early morning was caused by an overheated extension cord. The contents of the home were destroyed by the heavy smoke and high heat, but the house itself seemed to be repairable.

A fire department official said the two alarm blaze at the 1-1/2 story, single family home broke out shortly before 3 a.m. and none of the four occupants of the home were injured - but the family's dog died in the fire.

The official said a washing machine in the basement was connected to an extension cord that was not manufactured to support the amount of electrical current needed by the appliance. This high current level caused the cord to overheat and spark a flame that ignited combustible materials in the basement which quickly spread throughout the home. The fire official said that the burn concentration was around the outlet where the cord was plugged in, spreading flames up the wall to the ceiling, which is the floor of the main level of the house.

The official declined to speculate whether the cord was faulty or if it overheated because of too much current.

Space Heater Possible Cause of Fire

The fire that claimed the lives of three young boys probably was sparked by a space heater in their bedroom, a medical examiner's report said.

The burned bodies were discovered on the floor of a 6-by-8-foot bedroom, next to springs from what had been a twin bed and near a space heater in the doorway. The heater was connected to an extension cord running to the basement, the report said.

Several space heaters were placed throughout the house because the gas had been turned off for three to four months.

The boys' aunt who was inside the home called 911. Fire trucks arrived in 2 minutes and 57 seconds.

The smoke detector in the kitchen had no batteries, officials said.

Extension Cords

A fire that gutted a home is believed to have been caused by extension cords.

A fire marshal reported that they could not make a final determination but were comfortable with saying the fire's origin was temporary extension cords under the bed. He added that there was also storage under the bed which caused further wear on the cords.

Although fire marshals determined that the electrical cords were the source of ignition, the presence of several cords prevented them from identifying the one responsible. All the cords were badly burned.

Thank you to all who have submitted clippings of electrical fires and accidents. Many use these reports to stress the importance of electrical safety and proper electrical installation in accordance with the National Electrical Code®.


Special thanks to the IAEI - International Association of Electrical Inspectors.

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