Electronics enkindle home fires, but they’re not the biggest culprit

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Across the nation electronics have been the culprit of home fires, in fact shocking pictures like the one featured with this story present themselves to you via email and social media with frightning warnings that may make you see every computer, cell phone and other electronic device as a potential ignition device. But local officials say such fires are rare, certainly so in Washington County.

There are only a few fires blamed on electronics each year in St. George, Investigative Captain Jason Whipple said. The majority of those fires are contained to the electronic and do not spread to the home or car where the electronic is operating.

“If we can find the source of the fire we will send in a report to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see if a recall or warning needs to come out for the product,” Whipple said. “Other than that [the investigation] is handled the same as any other fire.”

The most recent electronic fire Whipple could recollect was a fire that started in a St. George area home by a stereo sub-woofer. The device did not start the structure on fire but destroyed the sub-woofer. An investigation was performed, and Whipple submitted a report to the CPSC for recall and safety purposes.

Whipple is the City of St. George’s investigator who works closely with surrounding area fire captains. Deputy Fire Marshal Todd Hohbein, who also lives in Washington County, is a state fire marshal representative for the four southernmost counties of the state. He investigates fires in the county that are outside the St. George city jurisdiction.

“I have had only one confirmed printer fire in the last 10 years and that particular brand, make, and model had a recall on it,” Hohbein said.

According to the National Fire Protection Association the No. 1 cause of fire in the United States is cooking related. Cooking fires claim at least 42 percent of fires reported each year.

Similar statistics are true for Washington County, Hohbein said. The majority of fires reported in the county are cooking related. The second most reported fire is caused by smoking materials like cigarettes or cigars.

However, Hohbein said this time of year chimneys are the No. 1 offender of fires in the county.

“Have your chimney professional cleaned once a year,” Hohbein said. “Keep combustibles at least three feet way from fires and don’t leave food unattended on the stove.”

Whipple agrees, he said fires can be prevented if consumers will simply keep electronics away from combustible materials such as pillows, beds and placemats. He also said, on the rare occasion an electronic does malfunction, minimal damage will be caused because the device was stored and used properly.

“People need to make sure they are installing things correctly and are not changing the way things are designed to work because changing them will cause a malfunction,” Whipple said.

For further safety tips and recall information on products, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.



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Copyright 2012 St. George News.


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  • Yaturtle February 25, 2012 at 8:06 am

    My computer is always on fire.

  • yaturtle February 25, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Seriously…have those chimneys cleaned. Creosote is the culprit and improper burning is not only a fire hazard but a health hazard to your senior neighbors who love to cardio in beautiful dixie

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