Misuse of surge protectors, smoking materials spark fires in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 10, 2018

 Smoking materials in a bedroom are thought to have unintentionally begun a fire in this home on Garfield Street June 29.

Smoking materials in a bedroom are thought to have unintentionally begun a fire in this home on Garfield Street June 29.

Photo by Kristyne Demske

 Electrical devices plugged into a surge protector that was plugged into another unit is thought to have been the cause of a July 5 fire on Crowley Street.

Electrical devices plugged into a surge protector that was plugged into another unit is thought to have been the cause of a July 5 fire on Crowley Street.

Photo by Kristyne Demske

St. Clair Shores firefighters responded to three residential fires June 29, July 4 and 5.

The first, called in by a neighbor at 7:17 p.m. June 29, occurred in the 22000 block of Garfield Street. No one was home at the house at the time. Firefighters arrived to find smoke coming out of the eaves and the west bedroom window, where the fire is thought to have started.

Fire Marshal M. Bodnar said that there was smoke damage throughout the entire house and the fire touched three rooms. Two dogs were rescued and treated with oxygen for smoke inhalation.

The fire is thought to have begun from unattended smoking materials. There were no smoke detectors in the home.

Bodnar said that it’s important for residents to remember to install working smoke detectors in their home and to make sure all cigarettes are extinguished before leaving a residence.

At 2:17 p.m. July 4, the Fire Department was called to a two-story apartment complex in the 20000 block of Eight Mile Road for a small fire in a back bedroom.

An overloaded and overheated power strip plugged into a second power strip appeared to have begun the fire. Bodnar said that surge protectors aren’t meant to be plugged into one another because they will try to draw too much power.

“They had all of their clothes piled on top of these surge protectors,” Bodnar said, which were running two portable air-conditioning units. “It just took too much power.”

Firefighters found one cat in the apartment and another was thought to have escaped during the fire. There were working smoke detectors in the home that alerted the resident to the fire. The fire did not spread to any other units in the apartment complex.

The latest fire, at 12:15 a.m. July 5, occurred in the 20000 block of Crowley Street. Two people were home at the time and one smelled smoke.

When firefighters arrived, smoke was pouring out of the lower windows of the quad-level house. The fire was contained to one room, but there is heavy smoke damage to the remainder of the home.

Bodnar said that this fire was thought to have begun with an old, homemade surge protector, which was not up to code, that was plugged into a second surge protector.

“You have to look at what the surge protector’s geared for,” Bodnar said. “They’ll have how many amps it can take and you have to add up your appliances. Then you have to remember, also, what you’re plugging it into.

“They’re not meant for permanent large appliances.”

A cat was found to have died, potentially from smoke inhalation. There were no smoke detectors in the home.

Bodnar said that firefighters do look for posted notifications that animals are in the house when they respond to a fire, but many times homeowners and neighbors are the best sources of information about what animals reside at a home.

“We do look for them (stickers or other notifications), but sometimes the windows are already broken out by fire so we won’t see that,” Bodnar said.