NEEDHAM, Mass. - A Needham family says a faulty surge protector almost left them homeless and now they're warning other homeowners about the device in hopes of preventing a future tragedy.
When Henry and Natty Wong got back from the supermarket on Saturday, they noticed a burning smell in their house.
The couple began searching their home for the source of the smell, which led them to their garage. They thought a car battery tender, a device used to keep car batteries charged during storage, was to blame. They unplugged the charger and thought their problems were over.
But five minutes later, they noticed a stronger smell of burning wood. They went back into their garage and noticed puffs of smoke coming from a wall. When they opened their back door, they discovered black smoke pouring out of the wall where their air conditioner disconnect is located. The fire had burned a hole in the siding of their home.
Henry immediately ran downstairs to the main electrical panel to cut power to the house, while Natty called 911.
Henry then used a garden hose to put out the fire before Needham firefighters arrived, hosed down the area and cut open the walls to make sure the fire was fully extinguished.
"I can't imagine what would have happened if I came home a little later to find out my house had burned down," Natty said. "Even worse, what if this happened at night when my family was sleeping?"
Later that night, while searching online to see what may have started the fire, Henry discovered homeowners across the country had a similar brand and model of surge protector, which caused fires in their homes.
The Wong family says they were never notified their surge protector was a fire hazard.
The affected surge protectors are identified as Type 2 surge protectors and are labeled Supco Model SCM150 and Sycom Model SYC 120/240-T2. Both are manufactured by Sycom Surge, Inc.
In January, fire officials in Cary, North Carolina warned homeowners following the fifth fire in four years connected to the surge protectors, according to WTVD-TV.
Sycom Surge, Inc. appears to be out of business. The company's phone number has been disconnected and the website no longer exists.
According to the Better Business Bureau:
"According to information in BBB files, it appears that the company is no longer in business. The phone numbers BBB had for this company are disconnected, and directory assistance does not have a listing for this company. BBB's mail to this company has been returned as undeliverable. If you have an unresolved dispute with this company you may wish to seek legal advice."
Underwriters Laboratories, a global safety consulting and certification company, deemed both models potentially hazardous.
Anyone who has one of these devices should contact a licensed electrician. Contractors often install them with heating and air conditioners, but they can also be found inside a home on the main electrical panel.
Wong said she's extremely thankful for the Needham firefighters and police officers who responded to her 911 call. She credited their quick response time and professionalism.
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