POCATELLO, Idaho - Since the beginning of March, two fires have devastated two homes in Pocatello. Although the second fire's exact cause hasn't been determined, both are suspected of being related to electrical problems.
We spoke with the fire department to find out how we can prevent this from happening in our homes.
Assistant Chief Tom Sanford specializes in building safety at the fire department. He said a big cause of electric-related home fires is when people overload their wires.
Different outlets and breakers are designed for different kinds of wires. So if a breaker was replaced with a stronger one, but the wiring wasn't changed — a fire is more probable. Another way to overload your wires is plugging too many multi-outlet or extension cords into a single outlet.
"People should consider that breakers don't trip just because — there's a reason behind it," he said. "You can't put more electricity through a wire than it's designed to do without consequences."
Housekeeping is just as important. Wires can overheat faster when placed under carpets and rugs. Plugging in bundled wires is another quick way to overheat them. The space around heaters should be free, too, with flammable items at least three feet away.
In-home projects like insulation are another big cause for this kind of fire, since the insulation could possibly cover electrical equipment and cause overheating. Sanford recommends double-checking with a qualified expert whenever you do these projects.
"If you're going to be doing something to your home, you should probably ask around and find out if this is something that needs (a city permit)," he said.
Sanford also advises that surge protectors are only temporary power supplies and shouldn't be plugged in 24/7. Also, a wire's gauge is typically stamped on cords, so it's easy to know exactly what wires you're dealing with.
Another thing to look out for is the maximum capabilities for your light fixtures.