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Frayed phone-charging cord sparks house fire

HOPE, Ind. (WISH) — A home in this town caught fire Tuesday causing between $50,000 and $70,000 in damage, according to local firefighters.

No one was injured, but the cause of the fire has area fire stations issuing a warning.

Bartholomew County Fire Investigator Gene Wever said he believes the Hope house fire came from a frayed cellphone-charging cord left plugged in between pillows on a bed, according to WISH-TV newsgathering partner The Republic.

“When they get wadded up, or pets chew on them or they are damaged, they are dangerous,” Wever told The Republic.

“Just unplug it and throw it away,” said Michael McNeely, a lieutenant paramedic with the Carmel Fire Department.

McNeely said his department sees electronics — from things like space heaters, power tools, hair dryers and power strips — spark house fires regularly. He said he also wants the public to know that a frayed device charge cord can spark disaster.

“We’ve seen these on a few of our fires,” said McNeely, holding a frayed iPhone-charging cord. “The outer layer of it will actually break down and the inside wires can start to touch, and start to spark and short out. If it’s in a location where there’s something flammable like bed sheets or pillows, there’s a possibility it could start a fire.”

So what do you do with a frayed cord — electrical tape, right? McNeely’s advice is to simply replace it.

“We don’t recommend that you fix anything yourself,” he said. “They’re cheap enough that you can just buy a new one.”

That’s advice echoed by Capt. Mike Wilson from the Columbus Fire Department.

“If you have to wiggle it around to make it work, it’s talking to you — replace it,” he told The Republic this week.

Regardless of if your cord is frayed or not, after incidents with cellphone batteries heating up and combusting, fire officials urge you to follow their advice.

“We all have a phone, we all have a charger next to the bed, so that’s why we not recommend putting it on the bed or clothes or on a towel,” McNeely said. “Always make sure your phone is plugged in on a hard surface or that your wires are maintained and up-to-date.”

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