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Wiring in older homes poses fire danger

Posted September 1, 2009

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— The Monday night fire that forced Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker from his century-old home points out the need to routinely inspect wiring in older residences, fire officials said Tuesday.

The electrical fire started at about 9 p.m. Monday and was contained to a storage room. No one was injured in the fire, but the home sustained enough smoke damage that Meeker and his wife, Dr. Anne McLaurin, are staying with friends until repairs can be made.

Fire damage to Mayor Charles Meeker's home Fire officials urge routine inspections in older homes

"It was great surprise. In the 33 years we've lived there, we've never had any trouble, and all of a sudden, a calm dinner turned into an emergency situation in 15 seconds," Meeker said.

The Boylan Heights home where the couple live was built in 1906. Although they have updated it since moving in in the mid-1970s, plenty of old electrical wiring remains inside, and Meeker said the fire shows it's time to take a look at replacing the wiring.

"That's something we have to think about," he said.

Raleigh Fire Department Battalion Chief Brad Harvey said people who own older homes need to take extra care with their electrical wiring.

"We would recommend that every two to three years, you use a licensed electrician to go behind the (fuse) panel because knobs can loosen up," Harvey said.

Older homes present other fire dangers, he said, such as electrical systems that aren't grounded, coal chutes and other open areas where fires can spread quickly.

Harvey offered the following safety tips for people who own older homes:

  • Limit the use of extension cords
  • Use only licensed contractors for renovations
  • Have a planned escape route and meeting place outside
  • Properly maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
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  • sidecutter Sep 3, 2009

    itsmyopion- yes I am an electrician for thirt five years and will be featured next week on "Ask anything" . Hedgyone- have good insurance

  • itsmyownopinion Sep 2, 2009

    Serious question, sidecutter -- are you an electrician? James, are you serious? You people are scaring me. I knew I should have skipped this one. My house isn't really old, but when I saw Mayor Meeker's interview right after the fire, I wondered if I should have the wiring inspected.

  • james27613 Sep 2, 2009

    These very old homes also did not have any insulation in
    the walls, easy for cold air to hit the warm inside air
    and that moisture can cause corrosion of the copper wire
    and the fabric jacket. arcing can cause the wires to carbonize and cause more arcing and extreme heat buildup.
    this can cause the wall to explode in flames and cause
    injury and damage.

  • hedgy_one Sep 2, 2009

    Everyone who lives in an older house doesn't have the money to rewire.....

  • sidecutter Sep 2, 2009

    Realistically, any house over 30 years old need to be re-wired. The proliferation of appliances and different life styles dictate larger and more circuits through out the house. Older houses simply were not designed and wired for today's uses.

  • SomeRandomGuy Sep 1, 2009

    Why is this a news story? Isn't is just common sense?

    Well, maybe not when Meeker's involved...