Viral video challenge prompts warning from Mass. fire marshal

Viral video prompts fire marshal to put chiefs on alert

The state fire marshal on Tuesday put all Massachusetts fire chiefs on alert that his office has already received reports of two instances in which teens trying to recreate a viral video have caused electrical system damage or fire.

Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey said a video that’s gained attention on the TikTok app has encouraged teens to partially insert the plug part of a phone charger into a wall outlet and then slide a penny down the wall to make contact with the two exposed prongs.

"The result is sparks, electrical system damage, and in some cases fire," the fire marshal said in a memo to fire officials around the state. He added, "This video is a concern and similar to past viral videos that encourage unsafe behavior. You might reach out to local news outlets, school officials, and parent organizations. Alert them to this challenge, advise them to, not only look for signs of fire play like scorched outlets, but to have conversations about fire and electrical safety with tweens and teenagers."

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Plymouth is one of three Massachusetts communities that have alerted the state fire marshal’s office about teens putting themselves and others in dangerous situations trying to recreate this viral video.

It happened twice in the same classroom in Plymouth on Tuesday.

“It’s called the outlet challenge,” said Plymouth Fire Chief Ed Bradley.

The viral challenge can go wrong in so many ways, Bradley said.

“They put a cell phone charger partially in the wall drop a coin behind it and watch it arc and spark,” he said.

There were reports of scorched outlets in a home in Holden and in classrooms at Westford Academy and Plymouth North High School.

“If the coin does come in contact with the two prongs it’s a violent almost like an explosion,” Bradley said. “It could easily get you in the face, in the eyes and it could cause your clothing to catch.”

Bradley says fire investigators used thermal imaging to make sure things were safe inside Plymouth North on Tuesday afternoon after two electrical outlets in one classroom were blackened with a penny lodged in between each outlet and the prongs of a partially plugged in phone charger.

“You could do electrical damage behind the wall and it could be undetected and burning in the walls,” Bradley said.

This can be a criminal charge, officials said.

Over at Westford Academy, a student is being criminally charged after a school evacuation last Friday revealed at least $700 in damage.

Fire chiefs across the state, including Winchester Chief Rick Tustin, are now working on notifying parents and administrators in hopes of preventing this risky stunt from happening in their communities.

“Our fear is somebody might get electrocuted, their houses might burn down and that’s our real concern. They get out of hand,” Tustin said.

Comments posted to one such video on YouTube give an indication of what kind of damage can result from recreating the viral video.

"My son just did this and blew out the power in half the our (sic) house," a user named Chrissy Love posted Monday.

In Holden, a teen recreating the viral video left behind a scorched wall outlet, Ostroskey said. That teen’s mother sent a photo of the scorched outlet to a news station, he said. His department investigated a second incident at Westford High School and the fire marshal said the “student(s) responsible for starting the fire at the Westford Academy will face charges.”

Back in Plymouth, Bradley said janitorial staff are checking classrooms across the school districts to see if there’s any additional damage that could be connected to this viral challenge.

Police are working on determining if charges will be pursued against the two students suspected of causing damage inside the classroom at Plymouth North.