Faulty device blamed in Harford County fire

STREET, Md. — If not for their barking dogs, a family of four may have died in their burning home on Tucker Road in Harford County in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

They managed to get out, and investigators soon learned a power outage had set the stage for the near disaster.

“What they did was fire up a gasoline generator. They put it more than 10 feet away from their house, which we like to see,” said Sr. Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire, “Then, they started running extension cords and started powering refrigerators and other items within their home.”

WMAR Staff

Fire investigators said the family did everything right in hooking up to the generator, but there was still something wrong.

A heavy duty extension cord tied to what must have been a cheap power strip couldn’t handle the load of multiple appliances.

“That’s just an overwhelming amount of power connected to one of these very small power surge protectors,” said Alkire. “What we discovered is that surge detector ignites other combustibles and rapidly spread throughout the garage.”

Fire prevention experts say you get what you pay for when it comes to such surge protectors and the cheap variety made in China may offer little in the way of protection.

“I just went to a local store today (and) picked these up. I got two of them for ten dollars,” said Alkire, displaying a pair of new power strips, “That should tell you the type of quality we’re dealing with. It’s probably not the best. However, they do have some type of listing on the back of them. It’s called an Intertek listed. I even as a fire marshal have never heard of that listing.”

To help avoid fires, experts say you should spend a little more, make sure the strips have a UL listing, which means they’re products, which have met safety standards and never overload they’re capacity by plugging in too many items.


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