“When it got to the fuse in the middle, there was a little pop,” he said. “The plastic started melting and getting on our stuff in the sink.”
According to George Bates, assistant director of the Electrical Systems Department for TCU Physical Plant, the fire started from a “weak connection inside the fixture that generated heat.”
“Once something starts like that, it just makes a worse connection, and that’s more heat,” Bates said.
There was no damage to any of the residents' personal items. However, the sprinklers that were activated around the sink soaked the carpet and wall.
The four residents were forced to relocate for a little over three weeks while TCU brought in Blackmon Mooring to clean water damage on the first, second and third floors.
After the incident, the TCU Physical Plant elected to replace approximately 280 vanity lights throughout King, Wright, Samuelson and Carter halls, Bates said.
Since the residence halls were completed in 2007, Bates said the Physical Plant had seen a similar weakness in the light fixture’s connection in “only four or five out of the whole 280.”
“Two actually melted the lens,” Bates said.
TCU Physical Plant took care to make sure the problem would not happen again. The new replacement lights are from a different manufacturer than the original lights.
“We wanted to be very safe,” Bates said. “We did not want a problem.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association’s “Home Electrical Fires," U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 43,900 home structural fires that involved electrical failure or malfunction from 2005 to 2009.
In the study, the NFPA recommends notifying an electrician if you notice discolored or warm wall outlets, a burning smell coming from appliances, sparks from an outlet or flickering lights.