Increased electrical demand igniting fires in older houses around Wichita

12/12/2012 5:34 PM

12/12/2012 5:36 PM

Wichita fire officials on Wednesday issued a warning to residents not to overload their home’s wiring – or it could lead to fires.

Two fires on Tuesday resulted from old wiring becoming overtaxed by space heaters, Capt. Stuart Bevis said.

The first was at about noon Tuesday at 2812 E. First St., near Erie between Hillside and Grove. The second was at 7 p.m. at 307 N. St. Paul, just north of Second and west of Meridian.

Both fires started in the attic next to wiring, Bevis said, and both fires caused about $10,000 in damage.

“People use space heaters” when the weather turns cold this time of year, he said. “They do a big draw” on a house’s electrical system.

In older houses, that wiring may not be able to handle it – especially if holiday lighting or cooking is added to the load. Breaker boxes are supposed to “trip” and shut off electricity if the load becomes too much.

“If it trips a second time, don’t go back and reset it,” Bevis said. “There’s something wrong.”

The house on East First was built in 1909, the dwelling on St. Paul in 1950.

Residents may hesitate to pay the cost of having an electrician check the wiring in their homes, Bevis said, but it’s bound to be much less than the damage caused by a house fire.

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