Age of homes around the Grand Valley

The Grand Junction Fire Department and Grand Valley Power are partnering up to warn homeowners and renters of the importance of home electronics safety as heating and electrical fires are more common now than at any other point in the year.

GJFD spokesperson Ellis Thompson-Ellis said during this time home fires tend to be related to heating and electrical wiring.

There were 56 home fire deaths reported across the US from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9 this year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Thompson said that most of the fires are still under investigation but the ones fire officials do know about were related to heating.

“The ones we see most often is people misusing extension cords, which are supposed to be temporary, not permanent fixtures in your house,” Thompson explained. “We see people putting multiple extension cords and power strips together … that is a fire hazard. You also have to make sure cords aren’t damaged or frayed.”

How old your home is can also be a big factor when it comes to fire safety.

One-third of the homes in the United States are at least 50 years old. The frequency of fires in these aging homes is disproportionately high, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International.

The median home in Grand Junction was built in 1983. In Colorado it’s 1984 and nationally it’s 1978, according to Thompson,

“Many older homes are built with electrical systems that are no longer safe and have additional fire hazards,” Grand Valley Power Communications Manager Christmas Wharton said. “Many homes now have multiple televisions in the house, smart device and things that you have to plug in on a daily basis. Whether you’re a renter or homeowner, electrical safety should be important to you.”

Wharton explained that the National Electric Code is revised every three years and with the introduction of the 2020 code, there have been 16 revisions since 1977.

“Many older homes may not have adequate electrical systems to meet the electrical demands of today,” Wharton added. “You can use our suggested home electrical checkup sheet to get started on electrical safety.”

Wharton recommends having an electrical inspection if your home is: 40 years old or older; you purchased a previously owned home; the home has undergone a major renovation; or new appliances were added in the past 10 years.

“These are not the only reasons though. A qualified electrician should also be contacted if wall outlets or switches are buzzing, discolored or warm to the tough,” she added.

Thompson said that folks can check out the age of their home by visiting the Maps/GIS section of the Grand Junction city website. For example, the map show that the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel building, located at 734 S. 7th St., was built in 1967.

“If you live in an older house, especially if you have electrical issues that you know of … breakers are tripping all the time, certain outlets don’t work, etc, you should have an electrician come by and check it out,” Thompson said.

Data show that wiring and heating problems tend to cause the most problems for homeowners during this time of the year.

From 2014 to 2018, electrical distribution or lighting equipment, such as wiring, lighting, cords and plugs, were involved in an estimated 10% of all home structure fires reported per year, as well as 18% of the civilian deaths and 19% of direct property damage, according to information from the National Fire Protection Agency. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment ranked first in direct property damage, and third among the major fire causes in the number of home fires, fourth in home fire deaths, and tied for third in home fire injuries.

”Give us a call if there is a situation you’re concerned about, we’ll tell you what our recommendations are,” Wharton said. “During those winter months heating equipment is the second leading cause of house fires.”

Most heating fire deaths, 81%, involved stationary or portable space heaters, the NFPA reports.

The leading factor in home heating fires, 25%, was reportedly from failure to clean heating equipment, primarily chimneys. Half of the home heating fire deaths were caused by having heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing mattresses or bedding. Nearly half (48%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February, according to the NFPA.