With the onset of power outages caused by Friday’s storm, Whidbey Island residents have been busting out their generators to electrify their homes. But with improper use, there can be serious consequences.
At least two structure fires caused by generators over the weekend on South Whidbey have rendered homes unlivable.
According to South Whidbey Fire/EMS, the first fire started at 8:11 p.m. on Saturday in Freeland. Deputy Chief Terry Ney said units were on scene until 10 p.m. at the Tyler Lane residence. Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue also responded to the call.
In this case, the generator had been placed on a deck next to a wood-sided exterior wall.
“It appears there was some sort of malfunction of the fuel system causing a fuel leak, which in turn caught fire and spread down through the deck and up the wall of the building,” Ney said in an email.
He added that although no one was injured and the cabin did not burn down, it did sustain significant fire damage to the point of likely not being rebuildable. Since it was not a primary residence, no relocation of occupants was necessary.
The second fire occurred at 6:56 p.m. on Sunday at a Brackenwood Avenue address in Langley. Similar to the first fire, a generator had been placed on a wooden deck near a wood-sided exterior wall.
No one was home at the time of the incident, but firefighters did rescue multiple pets, including gerbils and a turtle.
“It is unknown exactly how the fire started from the generator, but it clearly was the point of origin,” Ney said.
The house did not burn down but had enough damage to make it uninhabitable. Residents of the home were able to turn to family members on the island to provide housing.
Ney advised that generators should be placed at least 20 feet away from any structure, both for fire prevention and protection from poisonous carbon monoxide fumes.
The state Department of Health recommends that generators never be used in garages, carports, basements, crawl spaces or other enclosed areas. Additionally, to avoid electrocution, generators must not be used in rainy or wet conditions.