Small electrical fire contained to bedroom in Williams last week

An electrical fire on the 800 block of North Street in Williams was contained to a bedroom and quickly extinguished last Tuesday afternoon.

Williams firefighters responded rapidly, asked for mutual aid from both the Maxwell and Arbuckle fire departments, and – thanks to their quick response – damage from the fire was largely limited to the wooden desk where it started.

While the damage was minimal and no one was hurt, Williams Fire Chief Jeff Gilbert said that Tuesday afternoon’s fire should serve as a cautionary tale for area residents as cold weather and the holiday season roll around.

Gilbert said that the fire was caused by an overloaded extension cord that was too light for the surge protector/power strip it was conveying power to. It’s an issue that is all too common in the winter months, and particularly in December when residents have their Christmas lights out, Gilbert said.

“This time of year, you see a lot of people overburdening extension cords with electricity,” he said, adding that Christmas lights and space heaters are common culprits.

The problem in Williams last week was a “mixed daisy chain” – or an interconnected extension cord and power strip. Because electrical resistance increases with increased power cord length, interconnecting cords with other cords or power strips increases the total resistance and, as a result, generates more heat. That can lead to the cords or power strips failing and a possible fire.

“Mainly, on those power strips, the biggest thing is to plug them directly into the wall. Don’t use extension cord between wall and power strip,” Gilbert said. “Make sure (the power strip) has a built in circuit breaker, because you will find some without one.”
Power strips energized by an extension cord or another power strip can be replaced with a power strip that has a longer built-in power cord – one of adequate length to reach an outlet. Power strips If that still isn’t enough length, desks and associated equipment should be moved so they are closer to existing outlets.

Here are some other tips for avoiding a potential fire hazard with extension cord use:

  • Never overload extension cords
  • Make sure the extension cord is rated for the product to be plugged in
  • Check to ensure whether the extension cord is marked for interior or exterior use
  • Never substitute extension cords for permanent wiring
  • Do not run cords through walls, ceilings, doorways, or floors
  • If an extension cord is covered, the cord can overheat causing a fire hazard.
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Brian Pearson is the Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects include reporting on local government and the newly feature sports page. To contact Brian about this article, or for future articles, please email him at brian@colusacountynews.net