Incident Type: 
Sunday, July 18, 2021 - 1:47am
Sunday, July 18, 2021 - 1:52am
1800 block Helena Street
Madison, WI

There were no outward signs of smoke, fire or flames when firefighters arrived to the 1800 block of Helena Street early Sunday morning, but they did discover a fire hazard while investigating reports of smoke in the basement.

All occupants and pets had already evacuated at 1:47 a.m. as crews arrived. Engine Co. 3 entered the home and proceeded to the basement, where they noted an odor of burned plastic and a light haze of smoke in the air. Firefighters checked all major appliances and discovered they were all without power. A review of the electrical panel confirmed a breaker was tripped.

Ladder Co. 1 joined Engine Co. 3 in the smoke investigation. Together they were able to locate an extension cord that was plugged into a second extension cord and two space heaters. This daisy chain of extension cords and appliances caused the extension cord to short out and burn through its outer casing.

As firefighters ventilated the basement, they allowed the occupants and pets to return inside. Firefighters presented the damaged extension cords and educated the occupants about the proper use of extension cords. The homeowners were advised to contact a licensed electrician for the necessary repairs that remained.

Safety Tip: Extension cords and power strips are designed to carry a certain current capacity depending on how they were manufactured. Extension cords are meant only for temporary use. Appliances such as fans, dehumidifiers, space heaters, etc. should be plugged directly into wall outlets.

Likewise, power strips should only be used for smaller items such as light office equipment, TVs, etc., and should not be used for high-current or high-draw appliances.

Refer to manufacturer instructions on your power strips and extension cords to know what types of devices may be used with them.

Posted 07/19/2021 - 9:02am

Cynthia Schuster (Public Information Officer)