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Wiring in older homes poses fire danger

A fire in Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker's century-old home points out the need to routinely inspect wiring in older residences, fire officials say.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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.

"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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Dan Bowens, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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