Protect Your Home From an Electrical Fire

I was awakened from a deep sleep several nights ago to a phone call from my neighbor asking if there was a fire at our house.  She heard and then saw a big yellow fire truck sitting at the bottom of our hillside property with its engine idling and the sound of voices. There weren't any sirens or flashing lights.  I leaped out of bed, threw on a coat, slipped into my tennis shoes and ran out into the rain to see if there was smoke coming from our house.  Reassured that our house wasn't on fire, I walked our property in the dark looking for trees that might have toppled thinking that might be the reason for the fire truck.

As I crawled back into bed with my heart still racing, I could see from the bedroom window the meandering beam of flashlights and vehicle lights snaking up our narrow hillside road but  no siren or flashing lights to signal an emergency. I slowly drifted into a fitful sleep. It wasn't until the next morning I heard the rest of the story.  There was an electrical fire at our neighbor's house that rendered it uninhabitable.


This was a wake-up call for me as I had always had this niggling worry, maybe unfounded, about old knob and tube wiring, junction boxes, the Zinsco electrical panel, the sub-panel, flickering lights and all the things I don't understand about electricity that might not be safe. Today, New Year's Resolution #1, I made an appointment for a licensed electrician to inspect our home, identify safety issues and make recommendations on what we need to do to sleep soundly at night

So many homes in Marin were built prior to 1970, especially hillside homes that were once just summer cottages.  Sure, they may have been remodeled over the years but that doesn't mean they are up to code by today's safety standards. We are also putting a lot more demand on these older homes and expecting them to provide the electrical capacity to power our 21st century lifestyle.

It's easy to procrastinate but if you have concerns about the electrical system in your home, have an electrician do a thorough inspection.  It goes without saying, smoke detectors should be in each bedroom, hallways, downstairs and upstairs and they need to be tested and batteries replaced annually.

Make safety a #1 priority in 2016! We were lucky the fire in our hillside neighborhood occurred when it was wet and cool out. If it had happened during the summer when it was dry, the hillside could have gone up in flames along with our homes.

Janis Peterson,Realtor, Tel: 415-271-3109 or 

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