Lakeland fire sparks concerns about 'smart meters' - WFLA News Channel 8

Lakeland fire sparks concerns about 'smart meters'

Posted: Updated:
LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) -

A charred electrical box is what's left of a very scary weekend outside Cherie Oberg's Carillon Lakes condo in Lakeland.

Oberg says the digital "smart meter" on her home burst into flames damaging two adjoining meters. The flames fizzled out by the time Lakeland firefighters arrived, but the fear sparked by the situation is still smoldering for Oberg and her neighbors. 

"Oh my gosh, somebody could have died. We could have all lost our homes," Oberg said. 

"It was totally scary," explained neighbor Sandy Williams. "We came out. There was still a little bit of smoke smell. We could smell the air way down at the other end of the building."

Oberg and her neighbors are convinced the "smart meter" itself is to blame for the fire, but Lakeland Electric and city officials dispute that.

City spokesman Kevin Cook says a preliminary investigation revealed the problem was not the "smart meter."
 
"What we found is the can, the apparatus that the meter actually fits onto, that looked like there was an electrical short inside that can," Cook said. 

"We found out it's not the actual meter itself. It's the housing of what the meter plugs into which unfortunately is the homeowners responsibility," he said.

The explanation is very similar to the one given by Florida Power & Light in 2011 when a similar situation unfolded at a South Florida woman's home.

According to our partners at WPTV in West Palm Beach a fire erupted in July 2011 at a home that just had a "smart meter" installed. An FP&L spokeswoman at the time said, that this was not related to either a traditional meter or a smart meter, this was a wiring issue in a customer's home.

Cherie Oberg said she was basically told the same thing by Lakeland Electric about the fire at her home.

"I was told the box, the electric box isn't sufficient for the new meters, and yet Lakeland Electric put in the new meters regardless," she said.

There are consumer complaints all over the country that blame electrical box and house fires on newly installed smart meters, and consistently utility companies deny the meters are the problem.

A spokesman at the Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington D.C. says the agency is aware of the growing number of complaints. 

"We're trying to find out what's going on," said CSPC Deputy Director Alex Filip. He says the agency is trying to find a pattern or defect if one exists.

If you have a concern or complaint about a smart meter you can contact the CSPC at 1-800-638-2772 or e-mail the agency at https://www.saferproducts.gov/CPSRMSPublic/Incidents/ReportIncident.aspx.

 

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