My second house fire in 3 months.

Sorry for the extreme length, but I posted this not only to tell a story, but to warn everyone about the real possibility of fires. If I need to move this post somewhere else or remove it, please tell me. In my house, we have some very unsafe light fixtures that are designed to resemble candles. They have no shade, and are slightly hook shaped giving the possibility of things like curtains and towels being snagged or hung on them. They are all over my house, some being mounted low enough to easily hit my head on. These lights are extremely unsafe but have been kept to preserve the historic value our house has, as it was built in 1925. We learned of their fire hazard the hard way, twice so far. First time was in February. A cleaning lady we had hired was in our master bedroom. In this room leading onto a balcony is a door with two large and heavy velvet curtains about 4 inches away from the previously mentioned light fixtures when they were fully opened. I always knew they were very likely to catch fire, but I had a slight “It will never happen to me” attitude about it. Anyways, she was about to sweep under the curtains, so she hung them up on the lights and turned them on right before she left the room and went downstairs. The curtains caught fire and created very large amounts of thick grey smoke, setting of the hardwired smoke detector at the other side of the room. At the time I was upstairs when the smoke detectors went off, and I immediately assumed that it was a false alarm, because all but two of the hardwired smokes in our house are BRK 4120Bs that were installed when the house was renovated. I ran downstairs and smelled the faint smell of smoke. I started to panic as I ran into the master bedroom and saw that the light had burned a hole straight through the curtain that was now on fire. I immediately turned off the light and ran with my brother to the kitchen, where we grabbed a small Kidde BC extinguisher. We used it on the fire, but because the extinguisher was too small and the wrong type it didn’t put the entire fire out. At this point the wireless smoke detector in the hallway in front of the master bedroom went off and activated our Vista 20P, calling the fire department. After about 30 seconds, I was outside, thinking the fire was out when I hear shouting to bring in the garden hose. It is quickly used to completely extinguish the fire. The FD arrive and help us clear the smoke, but everything in the bedroom is covered in ash, sodium bicarbonate, and water. It was a huge mess that took about a week to clean up. Now to the second fire. A friend of my mom is staying with us while she is gone on a business trip over the weekend, and throughout yesterday she was helping us do laundry in the basement. Illuminating the basement stairway is one of those candle lights, and laundry is often placed on the stairs below it before it gets washed. I am not sure when, but two towels are placed on the light, and right before my brother, sister, and I are about to go to sleep the light is turned on and the towel catches fire. The same wireless smoke detector goes off and wakes us up. I run out of the bedroom and grab one of the five extinguishers we had bought after the first fire. I pull the pin and dump the entire contents onto the flaming towels that were now in the floor. The fire is out, but I soon realize that 5 pounds of monoammonium phosphate is now covering everything in the basement. Oh well. At least it isn’t on fire. Now, to everyone in the FA community, if you have a security system, install smoke detectors on it. If you have a hobby system covering your house, get smoke detectors and turn it into a real life safety system, and if you don’t have them, buy fire extinguishers. They are equally as important as fire alarms. Alarms will warn you and save your life, but extinguishers will save the lives of those who may not be able to evacuate and everything you and your family own. I urge everyone who reads this to take their hobby more seriously and use it and their knowledge to make their homes and families safer. If you think a fire will never happen in your home, think again. It happened to me twice, so why could the same not happen to you? Again, sorry for the long and potentially off topic post. I just want to make sure no one had to go through what I did.

Images of the aftermath of the second fire are here: Second fire - Album on Imgur

Wow! Your fast thinking surely saved your home from being reduced to ash. This is how it happens, just a slightly careless moment and it all gets away from you, unless you have everything in place and are quick to intervene.

Agreed that those lights are a fire risk. I honestly don’t believe there is any reason to continue using incandescent bulbs these days. I’ve seen enough near catastrophes with the heat they produce. Anything in a building casually producing that much heat makes me quite nervous.

And yes, having large enough and nearby fire extinguishers is just as important as proper detectors, if you hope to keep the building standing and not just escape.

I’m going to let my firefighter side talk now.

Glad everyone is okay. If the fire does get too big, never be afraid to back out. You only have one life, use it wisely.

I would suggest a switch to LED assemblies. They generate much less heat and use much less power. This will help prevent future occurrences.

We like it when people have fire extinguishers in case something like this happens. I would stick with a tri-class dry chem, sodium bicarbs are only BC and don’t prevent class A fires from rekindling.

After this post we have bought several 5 pound ABC extinguishers and we are in the process of installing LED bulbs in the fixtures involved in these events, along with installing more smoke detectors on our security system.

If allowed by your AHJ, maybe install a pull station that would act as a fire panic?

That story kind of reminded me of a fire safety video that was posted on this forum at least ten years ago (well, it’s for dorm life safety in college, but it could also be applicable at home).

The security system already has fire panic buttons on each keypad, but that sounds like a good idea.

Did you manage to activate the system when the fire started?


I debated on whether or not to post this reply, but here we go…

I agree 100% that these lights are a legitimate fire hazard. I applaud the installation of LED bulbs to help prevent “owner error” fires, but (unless they’ve been rewired) the wiring here is 93 YEARS OLD. Any wiring of that age is sketchy to say the least. Being born and raised in the rural South, I also understand the “historic value” factor. There are some BEAUTIFUL old homes from the 1910-1920s era in my hometown and county, and much of the original finishes are still in place and have been restored.

I firmly believe that beauty should not outweigh safety. It may be worth looking into having these fixtures rewired or replaced with replicas. Bear in mind, the FD has been called out by an automatic detection system to your house TWICE in the recent past because of these lights, and that creates an easy-to-find paper trail. If there’s ever a wiring-caused fire in these fixtures, I wouldn’t put it past an insurance company or fire inspector to look for past reports. That paper trail, when found, could jeopardize insurance coverage if something ever does happen.

By no means am I trying to preach or admonish here; please don’t think that. I’m sure the fixtures are beautiful and add a lot of historic charm to your home, but you are literally “playing with fire” here. I don’t want something worse to happen to your home because the wiring in the historic fixtures caught fire. Again, charm and beauty should never outweigh safety.


Steven (cerbpyro)

All of these fixtures were rewired when the house was heavily renovated in 1999. This renovation also included replacing most if not all of the wiring in the entire house. I assure you, measures like these were already taken.

I hate to kind of be late to the party here, (cause you know, the last post on this was over TWO YEARS ago) but I thought I’d throw in my own thoughts. I’m quite literally the fire marshal of our house, always wanting us to be safe. (which is why THIS time I got to be in charge of the smoke detectors we’d replace the old ones with, I didn’t have a say in the ones we installed in our previous house, and I made sure we went with the best this time: First Alert 3120Bs, dual sensor hardwired with battery backup)

Wow, had no idea you had two fires HappyJigg, glad you and your family are alright. When I first read the topic title I was afraid the fires had burned your whole house to the ground and everything in it, meaning you’d have to start from scratch, but thankfully you (mostly) had the correct measures in place so that didn’t happen. Stay safe.

I HAVE wanted to install a full-blown fire alarm system in our house, (along with a security system) replacing the residential smoke detectors already installed, but that would be way too expensive and difficult trying to buy all the components ourselves, and there’s NO WAY a big name like Simplex for example would want to come by and do an installation for a RESIDENTIAL HOME rather than a commercial building for FREE. (or at least an EXTREMELY reduced price that we could actually afford) I HAVE at least tried to get our fire extinguishers checked, nothing on that so far. I do test our smoke detectors (with the test button, sorry) every time I change the batteries in them, which is pretty much twice a year. (we change the batteries when we change our clocks) I’d say so far we’ve done everything we can to be safe outside of the aforementioned things.

Speaking of which, if you ask me big name fire alarm companies like Simplex SHOULD start considering the residential market. Sure residential smoke detectors TECHNICALLY do the same job of a full-size commercial fire alarm system, but why NOT have one in your home? For one thing you could pick what alarms the system would have. (I’m sure most homeowners would pick chime/strobes so as not to be jolted out of bed in the middle of the night by say loud horn/strobes)

I know this is an old thread, but I have a suggestion of a good compromise. All current residential security systems double as fire alarm systems. For example, an Ademco / Honeywell Vista has full support for 2 and 4 wire smoke detectors, N/O pull stations, central station reporting, and even wireless devices. Larger models even support a special red keypad, the 6160CR-2, with extra LEDs to help with compliance. The programming in this regard is less comprehensive than dedicated fire alarm panels, and most of them only have one 12v sounder output, but you could probably use a NAC extender if you really wanted notification appliances. It even has its own wireless version of the i3, the 5080W3, and a System sensor heat detector, the 5809. My Vista was the only thing that called the FD during the first fire, and was the first to respond in the second. They are real life safety systems, and a life saver in my case. I think the biggest draw however is the price and abundance of accessories and addons. It’s generally much less expensive than most fire alarm panels, and with its unique capabilities, I think it is worth it. If it is legal, you could also use a hardwire relay module to connect the hardwire smokes to it.

I suppose so, but I’d still rather do it like how the big commercial buildings do it. (though that’s probably just because I’m familiar with fire alarm systems and thus would know how to maintain one unlike the average homeowner who would probably have to have a technician from the company or installer come out and take a look)

About the relay: yes, that would be a good idea, (I’ve even been considering buying one for my hobby system so I can hook up some of my hardwired First Alert/BRK detectors) but I’d rather just replace the existing residential detectors with commercial ones and wire those directly into the panel’s zones.

5080W3 huh? Google doesn’t turn up anything, is it one of those weird i3s with the LEDs side-by-side rather than opposite each other? Like this one: <LINK_TEXT text=“ … B003U4NBF4”></LINK_TEXT> Have no idea why they changed the position of the LEDs from the original i3 design to be honest.

Yeah, that’s the one. If you really want a full on system, there are a plethora of panels that would fit the bill perfectly. It makes me wonder, however, how you would run all the necessary wiring.

Well, do it like they do in the biz: drill a bunch of holes in the wall and wire them up that way!

(I’m kidding)

The only way I can think to do it would be to either rip down half the walls to thread the wire through, or simply use conduit or wiremold. (or even just tape the bare wires to the wall) I highly doubt though that my parents would be happy with any of those options. As far as mounting the actual components, well, the detectors would of course go in place of the residential ones that were there before, there are none on one side of the house though, where I’d want to put a few in place just for added protection. Not sure about the siren either, though frankly I’d rather have a chime or chime/strobe so the system’s easier on the ears should it go off. (frankly why any smoke detector manufacturer hasn’t tried making a smoke detector with a chime in place of the horn in it is beyond me, my guess would be the piezo horn is required by regulations) Not sure about the other sensors in the system either, I know there are fully wireless security systems on the market, but frankly I’d rather stick with good old wired systems, which are easier for people like me to understand as far as installation, maintenance and troubleshooting.