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A fire that caused the death of an elderly Dallas man is being blamed on a so-called “smart meter,” a new electronic device that is on millions of homes in America and records power usage.
James Humphrey Jr. died in a fire on Feb. 3, less than a month after the utility Oncor Electric Delivery installed a new smart meter outside the front bedroom of his home.
“They came out and changed that meter three weeks ago, and the house caught on fire from that meter,” Humphrey’s cousin, Alfreda Johnson, told TV station WFAA.
Fire investigators told the station that the fire did indeed start near the meter.
“Oncor comes out here and they post those meters out there on these old houses,” Johnson said. “These houses are not equipped to carry those smart meters.”
WFAA reporter Jason Wheeler said that two unidentified “national electric providers” told him that they had seen smart meters overheat when connected to homes with older electrical wiring.
Smart meters use wireless technology to send data back to the power company.
He ‘Didn’t Deserve’ To Die This Way
Humphrey, 75, suffered from arthritis and had trouble moving, and Johnson believes he was unable to get out of his house in time. Johnson blames not only this fire but one at her house three years ago on smart meters.
“When are they going to own up and take responsibility for these old houses?” Johnson asked. “They’re putting these smart meters out here and these old houses cannot carry the weight of those smart meters with the wiring.”
Johnson added, “He had lived his life, and he had a good life, but he just didn’t deserve to lose his life like this.”
The Dallas Fire Department is still investigating the fire and has not yet released its findings. Oncor is assisting the fire department with the investigation.
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“While we understand the concerns regarding the meter, it is important to note that due to the nature and function of the advanced meters, there has been no prior instance where such a meter has caused a fire in a dwelling,” an Oncor press release to The Dallas Morning News stated.
Other Deaths Blamed On Smart Meters
It’s not the first time smart meters have been blamed for causing a fatal fire. In September, Reno, Nevada, Fire Chief Michael Hernandez, and Sparks, Nevada, Fire Chief Tom Garrison told reporters that they suspected a smart meter caused a blaze that killed 61-year-old Michelle Sherman.
“Based on physical evidence … the Sensus meter cannot be eliminated as the ignition source,” forensic investigator Andrew Thoresen wrote of the fire. “Data tends to suggest the meter may have failed.”
The city of Reno hired Thoresen to investigate the fire responsible for Sherman’s death. Hernandez and Garrison, in fact, blamed smart meters installed by NV Energy for a dozen fires in the Reno area.
A number of utilities in the US and Canada have removed or replaced smart meters because of potential fire danger, The Reno Gazette Journal reported last year. Six fires in Lakeland, Florida, and three fires in Portland, Oregon, were also blamed on smart meters.
An investigation by Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission found that heat sensors in smart meters may be malfunctioning and causing firings, The Gazette Journal reported on Feb. 5. The commission has been investigating smart meters since the fire chiefs made their allegations last year. The commission is investigating at least 77 cases in which smart meters caught fire.
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