I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast a couple of weeks ago when I smelled something electrical burning. I quickly followed the smell down to my basement and, much to my shock, I found my old electric water heater had flames coming out of the bottom of it! It was surrounded by all sorts of stored flammable items -boxes, a bedspread and wrapping paper, which I frantically pulled several feet away from the fire.
Thank goodness I had a fire extinguisher, but, of course, it was upstairs in the kitchen. After all, that's the first place I thought a fire would start. That's what I was told. No one ever mentioned the hot water heater. I was able to put the fire out without any damage, but I was pretty shaken up for the rest of the day. What if I hadn't been home or even on the second floor of my home? I wouldn't have smelled the fire until it was out of control or my house had blown up. I'm not exaggerating. Check out the link below and watch just how serious this is.
Height of blast: 45 feet. Width of blast: 25 feet. The tank flew 500 feet! Apparently, this can happen with either a gas or an electric water heater.
If you are working with a client who has either an older home or an old water heater, I recommend they do the following: Have them replace the water heater when if needs it - don't have them try to squeeze more time out of it. You may all just have a flattened house for a listing! Have them put a smoke alarm wherever the hot water tank is located and keep a fire extinguisher close enough to reach it quickly.