This awful photo was taken last week around the corner from our house in the Bywater. The owners, Cindy and Big Chris, also own Vaughan’s Lounge. Cindy, Chris, and their dog, Chapo, were out of town when it happened. Cindy’s son and his girlfriend were house-sitting when the fire started and thankfully made it out unharmed.
Word came yesterday that the fire department believes this fire was caused by a surge protector. That made absolutely no sense to me, so I did a little research to figure out how the heck a surge protector can cause a fire. Here’s what I learned:
- Surge protectors have lifespans. They can only absorb a certain number of surges before they lose their ability to protect against anything, At that point, it’s just a power strip. Some surge protectors have lights to warn you when they’re no longer functioning, but they’re not foolproof. (In addition to the power issues surrounding Hurricane Ida, we’d just had several overnight outages in the Bywater. One of them happened on the night of the fire, and the fire itself started shortly after power was restored.)
- If you’re filling up every outlet on a surge protector, you could be overloading the circuit. Make sure any surge protector you buy has an internal breaker that will trip when overloaded. If you’re using any without that breaker, it needs to be replaced.
- Any power strip or surge protector you have needs to be plugged directly into the wall outlet. Do not ever “daisy chain”, where you plug one into another. That can cause serious problems.
Guess what I’m shopping for? If, like me, you’ve had the same surge protectors for years or decades, I strongly suggest you replace them. The newer models are designed with more fire protection, and there’s a very good chance that the units you have now are worn out and no longer operable.