Ashburn Townhouse Fire Blamed on Extension Cord

The Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office has determined a fire that displaced six Ashburn residents Saturday was caused by an improperly grounded extension cord powering two battery chargers in a garage.

The cord appeared to be undersized, resulting in overheating and failure, according to the agency.

Just after 3 p.m. Oct. 30, county dispatchers began receiving calls reporting a townhouse fire on Stoke Chapel Terrace. Initial callers indicated that people may be trapped inside the building. Units from the Moorefield, Arcola, Dulles South, Ashburn, and Kincora stations were dispatched to the fire. The first arriving units from the Moorefield Station reported fire in the garage with extension to the first floor of an end-of-the-row townhome and requested a Rapid Intervention Task Force, bringing additional units from Kirkpatrick Farms and Fairfax County. 

Crews were able to confirm no one was inside the home and then brought the fire under control in about 20 minutes. 

The residents, five adults and one child, were assisted by the Red Cross. A GoFundMe page has been established to support the family.

The Fire Marshal’s Office estimated damages at $420,000 with $250,000 for the structure, $150,000 for the contents, $10,000 for two vehicles and $10,000 for damages to a neighboring structure.

Roughly 3,300 home fires a year are caused by extension cords, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International.

Safety tips include:

·         Do not overload extension cords.

·         Do not substitute extension cords for permanent wiring and outlets. Extension cords are for temporary use only.

·         Do not use an extension cord for more than one appliance.

·         Make sure the extension cord or temporary power strip you use is rated for the products to be plugged in and is marked for either indoor or outdoor use.

·         The appliance or tool that you are using the cord with will have a wattage rating on it. Match this up with your extension cord, and do not use a cord that has a lower rating.

·         Inspect cords for damage before use. Check for cracked or frayed sockets, exposed or bare wires, and loose connections. Never use a cord that feels hot or is damaged in any way.

·         Buy only cords approved by an independent testing laboratory.

 For additional fire prevention and life safety information, go to loudoun.gov/fireprevention or call Public Education Manager Lisa Braun at 571-258-3222.

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