Richmond fire crews see increase in electrical fires

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond fire officials said they've seen an uptick in electrical fires recently.

Early Monday morning, crews worked an electrical fire in south Richmond that sent one man to the hospital and killed a family pet.

"It's sad, because these people got nowhere to go this morning," said Roxanne Coe, who lives across the home where the fire broke out.

Investigators said the 37-year-old man who lives in the home off Buford Avenue was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

Crews had to go inside to rescue two dogs. One of them didn't make it. The other dog, a six-month-old puppy, is under the care of Richmond Animal Care and Control for treatment.

Luckily, the mother and three kids who usually stay there weren't in the home when they fire started at 3:30 a.m. Monday.

Investigators said the fire was a result of faulty wiring in the window AC unit.

Lt. Christopher Armstrong, with Richmond Fire & EMS, said electrical fires are on the rise.

"We're seeing an increase of fire in AC units, particularly in window units," said Lt. Armstrong.

He said the fires have been triggered by the recent heat. For example, more people crank up their AC units.

Armstrong said window units can be hazardous.

"Most of the time it's because of bad wiring," he said. "Meaning it's old or it's not being using properly," he said.

There are steps you can take to make sure wiring for your appliances is safe.

"Anything that is using electrical wiring, especially if it stationary, you want to take time to take your hand and run across the wiring just to do a thorough inspection to make sure there's no exposed wiring," explained Armstrong.

He says you should also avoid running wire under rugs or putting nails through wires.

Here are some other tips shared by the department. 

  • Do not use a unit that has a damaged power cord.
  • Do not cause the cord to become damaged by placing it where it is exposed to abrasions, crushing, or cuts. (For example: do not run the cord underneath carpet where it can be crushed by people walking over it)
  • Most manufactures recommend that you do not use an extension cord or any type of adapter plug with the unit.
  • Do not allow the unit to share the outlet with other appliances as this may cause excessive heat to be generated
  • Do not overload the circuit that you have the unit plugged into. If a fuse blows or a circuit breaker trips have the problem corrected.
  • Do not use an outlet that shows signs of damage.
  • Contact a licensed technician to perform repairs to the unit; do not attempt to do them yourself.
  • If you are experiencing any type of electrical problems in your home, discontinue use of the affected areas and contact a licensed electrician or contact your landlord immediately.
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