Experts offer tips following multiple electrical fires on Oahu - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Experts offer tips following multiple electrical fires on Oahu

Damien Kim Damien Kim

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Electrical problems are being blamed for multiple major fires on Oahu this year, one of them deadly. Experts say there are ways to protect your home from an electrical fire.

Fire officials say roughly 10% to 15% of structure fires on Oahu each year are electrical.

"It's stunning the impact that fire has," Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department, said.

A fire consumes everything in its path. A family's possessions are wiped out. Sometimes it's not because someone forgot to blow out a candle or left the stove on. The devastating loss happens because of an electrical short-circuit.

"Paying attention to your electrical, the circuits, the condition and how you use it, that's time that is minimal compared to the amount of time it will take you to recover from just the loss of your property," Seelig said.

Three women managed to escape a blaze in Palolo Valley last Thursday. Fire officials say it was caused by a short-circuit in a power strip.

Lillian Sato wasn't so lucky. She died when her home in Pearl City went up in flames two weeks ago. Investigators blame a short-circuit in an extension cord.

Experts say there are steps you can take to minimize the risk to your home. First, don't overload your multi-outlet strip.

"When you plug in your blow dryer, your curling iron, your curlers or whatever you have all one time, it could possibly, potentially trip that circuit and cause a fire," Damien Kim, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said. "It may not do it right away, but insulation will slowly burn down."

Second, inspect your outlets. If you see black marks or notice a burning smell, that's not a good sign. Also...

"If you notice sparking coming from your outlet, whether you're plugging or unplugging something from it," Kim said. "Your light switch also, if you're hearing crackling noises."

Investigators cite faulty electrical wiring as the cause of a fire in Moanalua Valley January 13th. Experts say it's a good reminder to always have a licensed electrician working on your home.

"I know it's easy when you go to a store, they teach you how to take things off and replace," Kim said. "But even that, unless you know what you're doing and if you don't turn off the power, there's a possibility of getting hurt, getting shocked, installing it the wrong way and eventually maybe burning and causing a fire."

The frequency in which you need to have your electrical wiring inspected depends on various factors, including the age of your home. Your homeowners insurance company might suggest a schedule.

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