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Fire officials warn of overloading circuits

August 04, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

Residents who rely on air conditioner units to escape the withering heat need to understand the powerful machines carry the same electrical risks as space heaters, Hagerstown Fire Department fire prevention officer Mike Weller said.

No appliance should ever be plugged into an outlet with insufficient power, he said.

The fire department has responded to two calls in recent weeks involving fires likely caused by overloaded outlets and improperly used extension cords, Weller said.

On Sunday, firefighters put out a blaze that destroyed one room of a house at 14 East Ave. The cause likely was overloaded extension cords in the room where the fire started, Weller said.

Coiled or covered extension cords generate heat that can start a fire, Weller said.

To be safe, Weller said residents should read their appliances' manuals and compare the amount of power supplied by the outlet to the amount of power required by the devices they plan to plug in. They can find out how much power is in the outlet by looking at their home's breaker panel, Weller said.

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Extension cords should be short enough that they do not need to be coiled but powerful enough to handle the device they are paired with, he said.

Cords that are hot to the touch and appliances that have caused lights to dim when they come on probably are using more power than the home's electrical system can handle, Weller said. Blown circuits or breakers also indicate the system is overloaded, he said.

"If the system is not designed for a large-scale appliance, you're only asking for trouble trying to make that system accept a large-scale appliance," he said.

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