By GLORIA PLEVA KACIK
While investigating a recent house fire, the North Royalton Fire Department found a possible danger with the outside electric meter, which was pulling away from the house. This is not a new cause in North Royalton. Some years ago, a house on Cedarwood Drive went up in flames. The entire back of the house had burned away, which totaled the house. A second house fire took place on Corkwood Drive. Luckily, the fire was detected early and the damage was not to that great of an extent and no one was hurt from either fire. A YouTube video of one of the fires can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5yie2gFhmE&feature=youtu.be
What ties these two fires together is the cause. After the Fire Department investigation, it was determined that the fires were started at the electric wiring involving the electric meter that was attached outside of the house. In those two fires, it was thought that the drought-like weather that had been experienced prior to those fires had dried the ground, causing it to settle more than usual. This settling may have caused the conduit piping that comes out from the bottom of the meter to pull away from the meter. The strain on the service wire going into the leader box can created a short. The shorted wire then touches the side of the metal box, or another wire, which creates a spark, similar to that of an arc welder. The spark is very powerful and hot, causing the wood to catch fire.
North Royalton Fire Chief Bob Chegan recommends that residents check their meters to make sure that they are not pulling away. “It should be solidly against the side of the house.” Do not touch the meter, as any additional movement might create a spark that can set the fire. According to the city, “If the housing for the electric meter is showing any signs of being twisted or pulled away from your home or the conduit piping at the bottom of the meter shows signs of strain or pulling out from the meter, you should contact the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company at 1-800-589-3101 and request that they inspect the incoming service connections and meter set to your home. As the homeowner, you are responsible for any repairs to the underground electric wiring from the street transformer to the circuit panel in your home. The Illuminating Company is only responsible for the performance of the electric meter.” Residents can also call the North Royalton Fire Department at (440) 237-4315 and ask for Fire Prevention or the on duty Shift Officer.”
Chegan notes that with the freeze/thaw cycle, movement and settlement is normal. He recommends that homeowners be cognizant that this could be an issue with the electrical meter, or any other utility meters going into the house.