House Fire from softwash. MUST READ!


#1

So I want to share my story with everyone. This is something that I want everyone to learn from! We now have an inspection process in place before we will wash a house.

Last summer I was washing this dinky little house in a 1 horse town. The parents of the kid living in the house had called and set up my services. I was told he would be inside sleeping because he worked nights and just to do my thing. I soaped the front of the house and under the front porch roof like I always do. I moved to the north side and started washing and I started hearing the loudest bang noise from the front! I honestly thought I had woken up the kid and he was beating on the house. I walked around the corner and right as I did the power line 6 foot above my head blew sparks and blue flames out right over my head…

The house was on fire…

My first thought (being a volunteer firefighter) was get the kid out of the house. I started banging on a window until I saw movement and he opened it. I instructed him to go out the back door and stay away from the front of the house.

He made it out fine and I had yelled at a neighbor that heard the noise to call 911

I literally had to stand there with a hose in my hand and watch the house catch fire. I couldn’t spray water on the fire as it was the meter switch box that was still live and arching that was on fire. Instant death had I tried this.

Skip to 5 fire trucks 4 cop cars 2 Lineman trucks and a whole lotta onlookers.

The fire didn’t spread and it really only melted the siding before the power gave up and it smoldered out. I think it was less than $2500 in damage. The lineman and the electric company both instantly saw what went wrong. When the switch box was installed it was not put in up to code. The fitting on the top where the wires ran out of was not a weather seal fitting. Basically the water running down the siding ran right into the box and jumped the 2 legs of power. 240 volts of pissed off energy ruined my day.

Here is what I want you to learn from me today!

1-Inspect the meter box fittings! (if you don’t know what to look for ask a professional to show you the first time)

2- spray lightly around meter boxes and weatherheads. If you have to, just use a pump sprayer!

3- refuse to wash an area if it is not insalled properly.

4- inspect the entire house for bare wires where outlets or lights used to be. (refuse to wash that area if there are)

5- DO NOT SPRAY WATER ON AN ELECTRICAL FIRE!!!

6- Know that it will be OK! Make sure everyone is safe! Get away and call 911

In the end the homeowner was so happy with me for making sure their son was safe that she offered me more money… I refused and tried to give her back the payment for the housewash. She said “no I want you to finish what you have done looks so good” I actually did but it felt super weird to be washing a house I had just caught on fire…

I really thought my days softwashing were up. Insurance would rocket or cancel people would talk and I would never get another call… None of that happened. My insurance was never even contacted by them and they paid cash for the repairs.

Please lean from my experience and check the house over before you start work. It may save your life someday! Never spray water directly at a meter base (use a rag or something) Where the power line comes into the house from the pole and enters the tube DO NOT SPRAY INTO. This is NOT what I had done but it will run down the pipe and do the same thing…

If you have anything negative to say please keep it to yourself! This is just a FYI learning experience.


Softwashing around wires?
#2

@SchertzServicesLLC- Thanks for sharing!


#3

Wow! :open_mouth: thanks for sharing your experience with us.


#4

Honest question. Why?
The electricity would have traveled down the steam of water?


#5

Wet hose laying in wet ground shooting wet water on 240 volts. Yea it can travel back and get ya! ever peed on an electric fence?


#6

I’ve not had the pleasure.


#7

Ever put your tongue on a electric fly swatter ?


#8

Different situation but last week I made smoke. Two outside GFCI outlets were not properly sealed to the wall. The outlet cover was closed. I looked at that when I did my walk around. The outlet was not properly installed and water running down the walls went right into the outlet behind the plate where is is supposed to be flush with the wall. It was not sealed to the wall. The GFCI outlets did not trip. They started making a fizzing sound and started smoking. This was all during the soap phase of the wash. It was really green and nasty and I was applying with Xjet at around 4% on a wide fan so not laying a whole lot of solution down. I doubt the wash mix helped the situation. Anyway, I went to the breaker box and nothing was labeled. Nobody was home so I threw the main and called the home owner. He said he would replace the outlets when he got home. I offered to do it and he said no and that it was ok and at least I didnt burn it down. He said he was also glad to find out the outlets were defective. It could have been much worse. I got a good review online after


#9

Scary story, but glad it worked out as well as it did. I can only imagine how much worse this situation could have gone.

Thanks for sharing!


#10


#11

Does anyone besides @Racer tape off or seal outlets, breaker boxes, doorbells, etc.? And how in depth do you go? Just tape over the top, plastic over everything, etc?


#12

We do also. Door bells, electrical outlets, Myself or my techs will do this
as we do walk around of home checking to ensure all windows , etc are
closed if no one home, which is often the case. Only takes a minute to
do, we use green painters tape, no residue to worry about on stuff.


#13

Unfortunately tape wouldn’t have done much good here. Had I seen the box had no seal I would have just refused to wash that area or brushed it on.


#14

Agree with you 100 percent. I would have done the same!


#15

I use not to tape anything but after seeing our pros doing it I also started taping and it has got me a lot of refferels when customers see you doing this I think it gives them reassurance you care about there property and they tell the people they know


#16

Thank you for the insight and help with this. Like @Racer, I do a pre wash inspection and tape all outlets, fittings, key holes and even bag light fixtures in some cases.


#17

never seen a service entrance under a porch roof!
They definately isn’t code if it not weather tight. Maybe the porch was added later.


#18

If you look at the picture of the box you can see where the power comes into the box from the meter. That side is proper. Most homes have the power come into the top and out of the bottom. This home had the power coming back out of the top and they did not use a sealed fitting. That is where the water ran in and into the breakers.


#19

I see, the left side is not weather tight.
That whole house shut off was proabably added later for safety and convenince and it ended up have the opposite effect.


#20

Amazing story and thanks for sharing as most people do not know water is not the answer for an electrical fire.