Hope you won't mind if I veer off-course this time, but I think it's worth it. While leafing through scribbled notes and clippings, I ran across a months-old article from the Sacramento Bee. It addresses a rather odd sign that indicates fire danger. I don't think it's common knowledge, but it's valuable information.
A woman named Kelli Wheeler wrote that her daughter's bedroom began to smell of fish, especially near the dresser. Since they had no fishbowls or aquariums, that made no sense. She installed air fresheners, which didn't help. One Saturday morning they tore everything apart in that bedroom, sniffing anything and everything, looking for something that might have crawled in there and died. Still, no luck.
She and her contractor husband checked out the HVAC vents under their 1950s house and in the attic. Nothing. The next day the smell was markedly worse. She and her husband moved the dresser out and saw nothing. But they smelled something else: smoke.
When her husband touched the outlet behind the dresser, it was scorching hot. They quickly yanked the plugs out of the socket, all of them too hot to handle.
The contractor husband, used to doing his own electrical work, dismantled the outlet. Plastic was scorched and wires melted. He recognized the cause: a loose neutral wire connected to the wall outlet, which had jiggled loose over time. Once that wire came loose it caused a spark to jump between the wires. With the smoke detector out in the hall, her daughter's bedroom would have been burning before the detector alerted them. Disaster averted, with thankful hearts all around.
The writer consulted authorities, who gave this warning. Homes built in the 1950s, through the late 1960s and into the 1970s, commonly had aluminum wiring. After years of hot and cold expansion, these wires commonly work loose. When you notice a persistent fishy smell, it's much more than an annoyance. Consider it a red flag--an emergency. This applies to ceiling fixtures as well as to wall plug-ins. Since homes usually have the same type of wiring throughout the house, the home's electrical system should be checked by a qualified electrician.
Also pay attention when lights flicker, which can mean overloaded circuits. If you get sparks when inserting or removing a plug, that's not norma. If an electrical cord is hot to the touch, don't use it. Or if a circuit breaker keeps on tripping, that's a problem.
Sorry to bring up something worrisome and surely none of us want extra expenses. These alerts, however, could be a life-saver.
Because that fishy smell is so unusual, I haven't been able to get this story out of my mind, even though it doesn't apply to our home. I pass it on to you, just in case. File it away in a corner of your mind, then keep it handy--for yourself or for someone you love.
As my grandmother used to say, "God watches out for us, but He still expects us to use our brains."
Be safe, my friends,
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