1. #1
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    Default Fire Destroys Home After Firefighters Leave

    Home Burns Hours After Firefighters Examine Electrical Outlet
    March 2, 2006, 05:44 PM EST Fire Destroys Home After Firefighters Leave



    (LOUISVILLE) -- Members of a Shively family says sloppy work by firefighters cost them their home. That's because it burned down just hours after firefighters gave the all clear. WAVE 3 Investigator Eric Flack reports.

    The Todd family lost almost everything in a fire they say could have been prevented.

    On the morning of February 7th, Shun Todd woke up to flames coming from an outlet in his room where a space heater was plugged in. Shun put out the fire, and his parents called the Shively Fire Department.

    "We called the fire department to be safe, rather than sorry," says Shun's father, Roger, who owns the home.

    Roger's wife, Sheila says "this is so frustrating, because it could have been prevented had Shively Fire Department done their job."

    After firefighters arrived, Shun says they examined the outlet and "said go get an electrician, the plug still works, everything's fine."

    He says he "wasn't skeptical -- it's the fire department, these are trained professionals."

    But that afternoon, the smoke alarm went off again.

    "The whole room was smoky," Sheila says, "and I look right directly at the outlet, and a gush of fire was coming out of the outlet ... the same outlet that they supposedly looked at that morning and said it was OK.

    This time, the entire top floor was engulfed in flames. Sheila, who was home alone, made it out unharmed, and the Shively Fire Department returned.

    But by that time, seven hours after the first call, the damage had been done.

    The Todds believe the fire had been burning inside their walls all day. And they think their home would have been saved if firefighters had just done a more thorough check the first time they were called.

    The Shively Fire Chief said the fire was under investigation, but had no comment on the Todds' allegations.

    The Todds say electricity was cut to the upstairs after the first fire, so they don't believe faulty wiring could have sparked the second blaze.
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    Sounds to me like they should have investigated a little more. I would like to hear more details on exactly what they did when they arrived the first time. Did they have a TIC? If yes why not be safe and use it , it is always good just for training purposes. Also did they check to see if the wall was warm around the outlet. Sounds like they may have dropped the ball on this one.
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    wow that's not good PR for the FD

    Remember brothers there is no rekindle, you didn't put the fire out to begin with
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    Quote Originally Posted by sfdtim11
    Sounds to me like they should have investigated a little more. I would like to hear more details on exactly what they did when they arrived the first time. Did they have a TIC? If yes why not be safe and use it , it is always good just for training purposes. Also did they check to see if the wall was warm around the outlet. Sounds like they may have dropped the ball on this one.
    Screw the tic, open the wall up and make sure.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoFF
    Screw the tic, open the wall up and make sure.
    That's what we do

    Open up till you find unburned wood and then open up a little bit more.
    For the simple reason being its cheaper for them to replace a piece of drywall then to have this happen
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    this irks me to no end.....7 hours later the fire starts. Gee whiz...do you think that the morons ever called an electrician like they were advised? It's funny how people don't think twice about calling 9-1-1 because fire and police don't charge anything. Snakes in your house, bats or squirrels in your chimney, bees in your trees, faulty electrical outlets, faulty wiring, exposed wiring, ....too cheap to call an electrician, plumber, or exterminator? just call 9-1-1 and save some money!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by HeidiLou
    this irks me to no end.....7 hours later the fire starts. Gee whiz...do you think that the morons ever called an electrician like they were advised? It's funny how people don't think twice about calling 9-1-1 because fire and police don't charge anything. Snakes in your house, bats or squirrels in your chimney, bees in your trees, faulty electrical outlets, faulty wiring, exposed wiring, ....too cheap to call an electrician, plumber, or exterminator? just call 9-1-1 and save some money!!
    Is the resident a moron because he had a fire or because the electrician did not show up within 7 hours? Could he have called his electrician and after telling him that the FD said the fire was out and the power to the outlet shut off that he said he would show up later or the next day.

    The story reported the homeowner saw flames coming from the outlet and called the FD. Do you think he did that because he was cheap or because there was a fire? If he had called an electrician instead of the FD and the house burned, would you still call him a moron?
    Last edited by KenNFD1219; 03-05-2006 at 11:02 PM.
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    Not enough detail to crucify either side, but...

    The FD should have at least reccommended (if not completed) shutting off the breaker to the affected plug, and then advising the homeowner to leave it off and call the electrician.

    In that situation, I probably would have gone with an inspection hole too, unless the owner protested.

    It is not our job to fully diagnose an electrical problem (or plumbing, or structural, etc.), only to ensure we leave the scene safe until the proper personnel can fix it.
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    not the image we want to produce .............as much as I may not like it ........it is BETTER to chop a hole in the drywall and open it up than to have to deal with this.
    Last edited by Weruj1; 03-06-2006 at 03:36 AM.
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    Thumbs down OOOP's

    calls of this type are unexceptable in todays fire service with the training knowledge and technology that is avalable to us. if a fire was reported coming from the outlet in the wall it should have been treated as such and the power should have been cut to the room ,wall opened up, secondary check with tic. area above the outlet wall ( attic area, second floor) checked (age of home ,balloon const.) before taking up and leaving. all to often we rush in to rush out and we look like a bunch of ?ss's in the end . here again i guess we did not learn from the teanek fire in bergen county nj with the freezer compresser causing a fire after the fd was called for a smell of something burning in the basement and it ended in tragedy. three days ago had a run for an alarm activation with smoke condition and after a process of elimination of room to room we found a floor outlet with a wicker table over it with a lamp type extension cord plugged into a refrigerator,microwave,and lamp,total time on scene was 1 hr 15 min. and it was worth every min. if you don't want to rip a wall apart because you are not sure use a battery powered sawsall with a small blade and cut stud to stud a foot above the outlet and to the floor along the studs, it saves the wall panel for repair later but gives you a clear view of the outlet and the sorounding area. as for the shivley dept., excuses will not change the outcome but the fire service learning from it most likely will !

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoFF
    Screw the tic, open the wall up and make sure.
    Exactly, if there was fire coming out of the outlet it is pretty safe to assume there is fire inside the wall. While there isn't alot to go on in the story, if the FD said the outlet was safe and call just call an electrician I wouldn't think it is unreasonable for the home owners to not use the outlet for a few days until it was convenient to have an electrician come out. If it wasn't safe and an electrician was needed asap then why did the FD leave?

    Looks bad and I've seen recent stories of insurance companies going after firefighters for much dumber things (like failing to save a home fully involved on arrival or the fires in Socal a few years ago), this they would almost have a leg to stand on if they can prove the FD failed to do an adequate inspection.

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    Doh!!!!

    I'm ashamed to say that happened in London a decade or so ago....to make mattera worse the call to 'smell of burning' or whatever came from the daughter of Actress Dame Judi Dench.

    Several hours after the first call (nothing found) they were back to a job involving a good portion of the Multi Million Pound Hampstead home. Needless to say the LFB were not on her Christmas card list for a couple of years.

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    I'll tell you what. You should all hold your horses until you find out what the investigation showed. Here are facts from the article.

    1. The FD responded, made sure the fire was out, shut off the power to the second floor and told the family to call an electrician.

    2. This home is apparently occuppied during the seven hour period.

    3. The family makes no mention of calling an electrician.

    4. The FD is making no comment because the fire is under investigation.

    And one question. You go to a house where a fire supposedly occurred as a result of sparks coming from an outlet. No other sign of anything wrong. You always open up the wall? If you do, I would submit that most FD's wouldn't.

    You guys have crucified this FD w/o hearing a word from them or a word about the official investigation. Is it beyond the realm of possibility that this family did not call an electrician and simply said "to hell with it" and re-enregized the circuit? Is it beyond the realm of possibility that the family saw an opportunity to cash in and set the second fire on purpose? These scenarios are every bit as likely as a fire burning undetected in a wall in an occuppied dwelling for seven hours.

    I hope that whoever posted the first article posts the follow up articles as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoFF
    Screw the tic, open the wall up and make sure.
    I will wait to hear more on this specific inicdent...however I will comment in general terms as to my previous expereince with FDs and opening walls up....

    Too many firemen today are beat down by idiot chiefs who are concerned with "customer service" and not causing damage.

    My first FD is unfortuneately notorious for this. They try to avoid opening walls and roofs and ceilings...etc. They actually think they are doing a good job. However they aren't ensuring the fire is out which should be job one. There have been a couple of fires that got away(burnt building to the ground) or rekindles because they were worried about causing damage.

    Also George...if most Depts don't open up the wall then I submit they are fools. If you are called to a house to investigate a sparking outlet...then you better do just that...investigate it thoroughly...which includes opening the wall up. Civilians don't typically call unless the outlet is really sparking and since that isn't normal...we will open up around it and examine it to ensure this won't cause a fire after we leave. Isolate the power and have them call an electrician...if they turn it back on at the breaker box or a fire occurs it wouldn't have been from our negligence.

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    This past September we got called for a fire in an outlet. On our arrival, the homeowner informed us he had seen sparks so he pulled the cord out of the outlet. We shut the breaker off and advised to call the electrician. We also removed the outlet and after inspecting the box, we opened the wall up around the box. We also checked the wall with a TIC.

    I won't guarantee that the homeowner went and reconnected his outlet and turned the power back on, but if he did, it's well documented what we did first.
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    Well, once again I guess we are all idiots down here. We would D/C the power, pull the outlet, scan with a TIC and/or heat gun, chech the attick etc. Probably wouldnt have opened the wall unless the TIC and/or heat gun or invest showed something. But then, thats one of the reasons we have TICs and heat guns, to avoid causing damage when possible.
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    Again I am siding with George on this issue. Almost everyone here wants to Monday morning quarterback this call and they were not even there. They do not have all the facts. People say that they should have used a TIC to check for hidden fire, was this tool even available? Just because you have one does not mean that every department in the country has one. A large majority says that they should have opened up the wall. Get real you cannot tell me that you open up the wall on every call of this nature. If the outlet shows no sign of heat or having a short circuit (burnt wiring, discolored receptacle) do you really mean to tell me you open the wall every time. This was an unfortunate event for this homeowner and this department. I just hope that the next time, and I know it will happen, that something negative happens in your department that it does not make this web site because the same people you are siding with will be telling you how dumb you are without knowing all the facts. Give the investigation time and support you brother firefighter and not hang him/her from the tree yet.
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    Got a question (I'm not a FF). I take it from your responses that it's normal for rekindling to last 7 hours before engulfing into flames? I would have thought the flames would have been brought on a lot sooner after the FD left. Unless, like someone mentioned, the family turned the circuit back on a few hours later and another short occured. Can someone explain to me how this could have happened 7 hours later?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Station2Capt
    Just because you have one does not mean that every department in the country has one. A large majority says that they should have opened up the wall. Get real you cannot tell me that you open up the wall on every call of this nature. If the outlet shows no sign of heat or having a short circuit (burnt wiring, discolored receptacle) do you really mean to tell me you open the wall every time.
    First I'm not questioning these guys, there isn't enough info in the above article as to whether the civilians didn't turn the power back on...etc.

    If a wall outlet is sparking or has flames as in this case it is because there is a problem and since none of us has the ability to see through walls (TICs don't see through walls either) we need to ensure there is nothing going on behind the plaster.

    We aren't talking about tearing out a 4x8" section of wall...we are talking about taking off the cover plate and making a small examination hole around the outlet to examine the structure....odds are this is less damage than the electrician will cause when he comes to replace the wires and box. The cost of plaster and paint to repair the small hole is worth the piece of mind that there is no fire inside smoldering.

    These people called the FD because there was a serious problem with their outlets...it is our duty and responsibility to ensure there is no risk of fire...most times this results in minimal damage and it ensures that these people(or their neighbors in an appartment building) won't be endangered by a fire later on that night.

    As for would we open the wall on every call of this nature as written in the above article?....yes EVERY TIME without question.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skyraider
    Got a question (I'm not a FF). I take it from your responses that it's normal for rekindling to last 7 hours before engulfing into flames? I would have thought the flames would have been brought on a lot sooner after the FD left. Unless, like someone mentioned, the family turned the circuit back on a few hours later and another short occured. Can someone explain to me how this could have happened 7 hours later?
    We had one that was 24 hours later. In that case, some smoldering debris fell from above down inside a wall. Everything was pulled until nothing was burned, and the TIC did not pick it up. We actually thought we had an arson case for insurance reasons.

    Most can be prevented, but not all. If FIRE was coming from the outlet, then yes, the wall should have been pulled. Just sparks, probably not.

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    1) I agree that we don't really have enough info of what the FD found.

    2)
    Unless there's a new construction method I'm not familiar with...electrical boxes are attached to studs.

    I'm kind of a lunt when it comes to carpentry and stuff but usually can work my way through a project, so somebody with more experience feel free to add / correct this:

    Most houses I see have sheetrock.

    Take a utility knife, repeatedly score the sheetrock. Go oh, 6" or so on either side of the outlet + up 6". (That'll make a 12" x 6" inspection hole) That wide of whole, you know you've cut a piece big enough there should be a stud behind it that it can be reattached to.

    If the sheetrock is nailed in the area, work it using the the stud as a pivot point like you would use a rafter to pivot a roof you just cut to open the vent hole. Yeah, maybe some damage to the sheet rock from the screw/nail, but that can be spackled.

    Hey look, we can see inside there...took us 5 minutes and didn't leave a nasty gash in the wall.

    And the electrician or other tradesman should be able to fix the neat whole in the wall under an hour. Reattach the sheetrock, tape, mud, paint.

    What is the very worse case we're talking? A DIY repair for about $35, a contractor for $100?

    If you see extension, keep opening up.

    Oh, and before you leave, grab the digital camera and snap a shot of the area you inspected & the breaker that was turned off.

    (Plaster I don't know much about...except I hate it when I go to overhaul a wall and discover it's lath and not sheetrock I have to pull )
    Last edited by Dalmatian190; 03-06-2006 at 11:51 AM.

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    I am with George on this one. By nature, I am not overly suspicious when I am doing an investigation. However, people are very very clever. Insurance claim + a settlement from the F.D. could add to a tidy sum of cash.
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    Default One more thing

    If the firefighters even suspected there was a fire from the outlet, they should have opened up the wall.
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    In a situation like this, I will open the wall every time.

    I don't have X-ray vision, and I have seen where a TIC that did NOT pick up on a small smoldering fire behind sheetrock.

    Major demolition is unnecessary, but an inspection hole is certainly warranted.

    I have had similar situations in the past. A simple explanation of what you are going to be doing and the reason why will ease the mind of the homeowner (as well as mine) and will also demonstrate professionalism and a genuine concern for their safety and the safety of their property.

    10 or 15 extra minutes of investigation can make all the difference in the world.




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    1) They got dispatched to investigate a fire in an outlet. I am sure the homeowner told the FD that he extinguished it prior to their arrival.

    2) It is the job of the FD to ensure that all fire is extinguished prior to leaving, that means investigating and checking that it was fully extinguished. There is no way to know if they used a camera, back of their hands, or opened up the walls from that article. I am going to say IMO they didnít open up the walls but could have done the other two options and possibly found nothing.

    3) They told the homeowner to call an electrician, as the outlet is still good. The article says power was turned off to the room, however it doesnít say if the homeowner turned it back on after the FD left.

    Indeed this is still an on going investigation, however unless there was fire still inside that wall that this FD missed during their initial investigation I cant see the FD being at fault here.
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