Overheated connection starts bedroom fire

A fire occurred at a townhouse in Abbotsford, BC. The unit’s unfinished basement was being used as a bedroom and had two 15-amp, 120-volt duplex receptacles, one on each wall at opposite ends of the room. Several power bars and extension cords supplied power from these receptacles to power  heaters, a hair dryer, a hair straightening iron, lamp, modem, cell phone and laptop charger, among other equipment.

The unfinished basement did not have the proper amount of receptacles and circuits required by BC Electrical Code to be used as a bedroom or living space.

Over time, improper use caused excessive heating between the power bar cord and the wall receptacle. The repeated overheating caused the tension of the receptacle’s contact parts to weaken and loosen, creating a high resistance connection with less contact surface and pressure between the receptacle’s contact parts and the power bar’s contact blades. This resistance caused even more heat to build up and eventually led to a fire in the home.

This case serves as a reminder that power bars, extension cords and multi-outlet devices are not intended to be used as a substitute for permanent wiring.

The investigation is documented in Technical Safety BC’s enhanced incident investigation report format

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