No one was injured when a fire heavily damaged a unit in the Sheppard Hills apartment complex Saturday night. One adult and three children are displaced because of the fire and are being assisted by the American Red Cross. The fire has been ruled accidental.
Fire dispatchers received numerous calls at 8:34 p.m. that an apartment at 1950 Simmons St. was on fire. Initial reports were that a propane cooking unit was on fire under a balcony and the fire spread to the second floor and later into the attic. When firefighters arrived on scene, heavy flames were coming out a side door and from the patio of the two-story wood frame/stucco building. It took firefighters about ten minutes to bring the fire under control.
The fire gutted the kitchen and caused substantial damage to the rest of the unit and attic area. Damage was estimated at $80,000.
After talking to occupants and neighbors, fire investigators ruled the fire accidental; starting in the refrigerator.
Two girls were home playing Monopoly when the smoke alarm in the apartrment activated. They did not see any smoke but heard noises from the refrigerator that sounded like firecrackers going off the girls said. When they opened the refrigerator door, the inside of the unit was on fire. One of the girls retrieved a fire extinguisher that was mounted under the sink and sprayed it on the fire. But the fire continued to grow so the girls evacuated the apartment.
Neighbors could hear something was wrong in the apartment and went to see if they could help. They also confirmed that flames were coming out around the refrigerator.
Refrigerator fires are not uncommon, especially during the summer. To cool the inside of the refrigerator, the compressor unit which produces the cold, can get extremely hot. If the compressor is touching combustible items such as dirt, dust or trash, those items can catch fire. If the unit has not been maintained on a regular basis, just as a car can overheat, the refrigerator can also and catch fire especially if it is an older unit.
Here are some safety tips concerning refrigerators and freezers during the summer in the desert:
• Make sure there is adequate ventilation around the refrigerator/freezer so hot air from the compressor can dissipate into the air.
• Vacuum around the compressor and any coils yearly to prevent a build up of dust or dirt.
• Make sure there is no trash around the refrigerator/freezer.
• Make sure that when the doors are closed the weather stripping seals it so the cold air stays inside. If cold air escapes, this causes the unit to run longer which will cause the compressor to get very hot.
• Do not defrost refrigerators/freezers on hot days. It will be extremely hard for the unit to go from very hot to freezing causing the compressor to work harder making it heat up.
• When using a refrigerator/freezer, make sure there is something in the unit, such as bottled water while in operation. Do not let the unit run while it is completely empty.
• Make sure the unit is on a non-combustible floor or surface. Carpeting and wood are common and both can catch fire.
• Have your unit maintained by a qualified technician on a regular basis. It not only keeps the unit operating safely, an efficient unit can save you money on energy.
E203,3,53,201, T3, R3,53, CB8, EMS1, AR1, B1,4,5, PIO1, 6i4, 6i1, 6i12 Incident: 2162043