Home Electrical Fires: A Marianna Family's Tragedy Reminds Region of Danger

There are few things more terrifying to imagine than waking up to a home engulfed in flames. Both fire and the accompanying smoke can cause terrible financial damage, a threat that pales in comparison to the risk of life-altering injury or even death. In this post, we will focus on the specific danger of electrical fires, discussing fire statistics and sharing fire prevention tips. Prevention is always preferable, but our Panama City fire injury lawyer is here to help those who are left injured or grieving when a home fire is the result of someone else's negligence.

Marianna Home Fire Kills Four

2014 opened on a tragic note for one Marianna family when fire struck a multi-generation household that WJGH reports included women known and loved throughout their community. The fire broke out at approximately 7:45 A.M. on New Year's Day at the Rhyms family home on Jackson Street. 6 children, all under the age of 8, were awakened by the home's 3 smoke detectors and were able to escape to safety.

Unfortunately, four adults were not able to escape and lost their lives in the blaze. Marianna Fire Department Chief Nakeya Lovett said responding firefighters did what they could, but the call just came too late to save the women. Another family member identified the victims as Gertrude Pete, Elise Pete, Cynthia Pete, and Sarah Johnson. Chief Lovett referred to the victims of pillars of their community.

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire. Early speculation has focused on an overloaded extension cord as a possible source.

Statistics on Home Electrical Fires

According to the National Fire Protection Association's ("NFPA") Home Electrical Fires Fact Sheet, fire departments in the U.S. responded to an average of 47,820 home fires per year that involved electrical failure or other electrical malfunction between 2007 and 2011. In addition to causing $1.48 billion in direct property damage, these blazes left 455 civilians dead and caused 1,518 civilian injuries.

Approximately half of these fires involved either electrical distribution (ex. unclassified wiring, outlets, extension cords) or lighting equipment. Those blazes accounted for a disproportionate human cost, leading to 325 of the civilian home electrical fire deaths and 950 of the reported injuries. The remaining half of home electrical fires involved other equipment such as fans, washers or dryers, space heaters, and air conditioning equipment.

Tips for Avoiding Electrical Fires

The NFPA also provides a tip sheet for preventing home electrical fires. Key pieces of advice include:

  • Have all electrical work done by qualified electricians and have homes inspected by a similar professional before purchase.
  • Never plug more than one heat-producing device (including toasters and coffee-makers, in addition to space heaters) in a receptacle outlet.
  • Plug major appliances directly into wall outlets (i.e. not into extension cords or strips).
  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor areas to reduce shock risk. Also consider use of arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) for additional outlet protection. Test both monthly.
  • Use extension cords for temporary needs only, and have an electrician install outlets needed on a long-term basis.
  • Do not run extension cords under carpets or across doorways.
  • Look for stickers on lighting devices and do not use bulbs above the maximum recommended wattage.

If you encounter the following, call a landlord or repairperson promptly: frequently blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers, tingling when touching appliances, discolored/warm wall outlets, unusual odors from appliances, flickering/dimmed lights, or sparks coming from an outlet.

Representing Victims of Fires Caused by Negligent Landlords, Builders Who Ignored Safety

If someone else's negligence led to an electrical fire that harmed you or a loved one, our Panama City tenant fire attorney can help. Potential defendants in these cases include a builder who took safety shortcuts, a landlord who scrimped on safety equipment, or the manufacturer of a faulty device that sparked the flames. Call to discuss your unique case and how we can help.

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