Questions raised after fire agencies report several mobile home fires in valley

Causes in several fires still undetermined

Questions raised after fire agencies...

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - One of the fires was a devastating blaze in Indio, that left one person severely burned.

Another fire burned near the polo grounds in Indio, where neighbors. saved the life of an 85-year-old disabled woman by pulling her from her burning home.

Another fire happened at a mobile home park in Cathedral City and left a cat requiring resuscitation 

These are three of at least ten such fires, which have broken out in cities around the Coachella Valley, dating back to last May.

The fires are raising the question, "do these homes come with increased fire risks?

Cal Fire Fire Captain Lucas Spelman talked with us about the issue. 

"People think they burn more and are more deadly than a regular residential home.  The NFPA in 2007 through 2011 did studies on it.  They're roughly the same as a residential home," said Spelman.

While the causes of most of these fires in the desert since May are still "under investigation", we've learned the cause of one of the fires in Indio is described only as "mechanical".

But, at least five of the fires were caused by electrical* issues, which typically include things like overloaded outlets, improper use of extension cords, and bad wiring.

Paul Brill tells us he found bad wiring at the home he purchased in Cathedral City in September after the place was damaged by a fire last May.

"They used extension cord wires, they used wires for lamps, on the exterior and you just don't do that, they short out," said Brill while talking about the home's previous owners. 

Interestingly, Brill says the fire at the home, which he is now renovating, was not blamed on bad wiring.

He was told the blaze was somehow sparked by an I-pad being charged on a universal charger, which was plugged into an extension cord, which was also being used to power other devices or appliances. 

Brill described what the home looked like before he started renovating.

"Everything was black inside.  The walls, the floors, the windows, the doors, everything," said Brill.    

One way fires differ in mobile homes and some smaller manufactured homes, when compared to those in conventional homes, is the fire spreads faster, because of the smaller spaces.

In a videotaped training exercise, performed by the La Ronge Regional Fire Department in Saskatchewan, Canada, it took about six minutes from the fire being set to the home becoming fully engulfed.

For anyone who lives in one of these homes, there are a number of things that must be kept in mind in order to reduce fire risk.  

Fire experts say don't overload extension cords or outlets.

Don't use extension cords to power major appliances.

Use surge protectors properly.

"Sometimes people will even plug multiple surge protectors into each other, and obviously, there is only a certain amount that it can handle," said Spelman.


Use a qualified electrician to perform any electrical work.

Check wiring regularly, looking for wear and tear, or wires missing a protective layer.

Keep spaces between homes clear.

Make sure fire alarms are installed and working properly.  

Taking these steps can prevent a mobile home from eventually going up in flames.

"Just be careful with a mobile home, or any home," said Brill.

Captain Spelman says these fires in the valley frequently happen during periods of extreme temperatures when people are increasing their electrical use, either by turning up their air conditioners or using space heaters.  

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