What To Do If You Smell Something Burning In Your House

Recently, I had a breaker box burning at my residence. The last thing you think would cause a fire is a breaker box.  Luckily, I was home to catch it before it turned into something much bigger.  Needless to say, even though it was small I’ve been out of my house for 8 days.  But thank GOD it was small.

Here is what happened a week ago.

My lights flickered and then hours later my entire house went black.  I called Dominion Power, thinking, did I pay the bill; but the bill was paid.  Then I reported a power outage, to get a call back immediately from Dominion Power that no power outage has been reported by any of my neighbors; so it’s just my house.  The customer service rep sent me to my breaker box.  As I was walking to the back door, I smelled a burning smell.  Continued out the house, opened my shed and the smell was stronger with little smoke.  I immediately called 911.  The fire department got to my house within minutes.  Thanks to the awesome Virginia Beach Firefighters my house is still standing and the only damage was in the shed.

Below are some tips I found online.  WHAT TO DO IF YOU SMELL SOMETHING BURNING….

  • First, protect yourself and your family. Quickly search for the smoke source and get out of the house or building if fire is present, particularly if it is large and/or uncontained. Get others out as well. Call 911 from a cell phone or a neighbor’s house rather than stay inside a burning building. If a fire is small and you have an extinguisher of the proper type handy, you can try putting it out, but take as little risk as possible, and do not breathe the smoke for too long. Please do not put yourself in harm’s way. Saving lives always comes before saving property, so use caution and common sense.

  • If a quick search reveals no obvious source of smoke or flame, check to see if the smoke is coming through an open window or door. Smoke from fires, fireplaces, barbeques, and other sources can drift long distances, pushed by winds or flowing along the ground, and it tends to pool in low lying, flat areas where homes are often built. On occasion, exterior smoke can be sucked into a home by a furnace, particularly if there are problems with the ducting. If you determine the smoke is coming from outdoors, go on to the next section.
  • If you still find no source, consider less obvious internal locations: crawl spaces, attics, breaker boxes, appliances in garages, furnaces, etc. Even simple electronic items occasionally die and emit smoke or start fires. Clocks, battery chargers, and many similar things can malfunction in unexpected ways, so widen your search. You might not find it if an appliance simply died and emitted smoke for a minute or two, but the odor should be stronger near the source. If something went seriously wrong you might find fire as well, so again, be careful and use common sense.
  • If you find no source and the smell does not dissipate, call 911. The fire department will come and inspect, helping figure out what the problem is. Sometimes another set of eyes can find problems that we miss ourselves, and if there is a problem you want it found as quickly as possible. Fire departments may also have a thermal imaging camera they can use to spot hot items that are otherwise not visible to the naked eye.
  • If the smell does dissipate, keep alert when in the area where it was strongest in the future and note if there are any unusual discolorations around or on any electrical appliances, heaters, or stoves. Anything found that is heat damaged or discolored from smoke in a new or unexpected way should be unplugged or switched off at the breaker box (if electrical) and inspected by a qualified service person before being used again.


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