Is There a Bomb in Your Client's Home?

Real Estate Agent with Dove Realty Inc.

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.


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Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes"

Hi Susan ~ that was a close call, much too close -- we are glad that you were home to deal with this!  Thanks for the warning and for reminding us to be aware of the dangers of an older water heater.  The smoke alarm is an excellent idea.

Jan 27, 2010 05:09 AM #1
Lewis Beynon
CENTURY 21 Triangle Group - Raleigh, NC
Triangle Real Estate 411

Great post Susan.  I saw a similar video that a Home Inspector produced.  It is amazing!!!  Best wishes from Upstate NY!!!

Jan 27, 2010 05:19 AM #2
Lindsey Hasford
Edina Realty - Elk River, MN
Bringing you home...

That's amazing. I have heard similar stories with clothes dryers. All the little details can make such a huge difference!

Jan 27, 2010 06:09 AM #3
Kevin Pierce
Cascade Builder Services - Tacoma, WA
New Construction Warranty Management

I'm glad you're safe and your house is ok Susan.  However, I must point out that the exploding water heaters, like the one in your video, is caused by built up pressure within the tank due to a missing pressure relief valve, not from a gas ignition.  Granted, the flames can cause damage and are very dangerous, but you won't see a rocketing water heater tank from a gas leak.

Jan 27, 2010 08:02 AM #4
Christine Craig
Designology Interior Design - Santa Barbara, CA
Allied ASID & NKBA

AND that's why I want a tankless water heater!!!

Jan 27, 2010 12:50 PM #5
Lin Wetzel
Outstanding Staging - Stroudsburg, PA
People Prefer OUTSTANDING Properties! tm

I'm so glad you're ok, Susan! 

I once lived in a rental house in which the water heater began to give off carbon-monoxide (I think) and lots of black soot one night. Luckily, I dreamt I was choking, and woke up. Thanks for passing the word on how important it is to properly monitor and maintain these major items in the home.

~ Lin

Jan 27, 2010 10:07 PM #6
Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities
Charlemagne International Properties - Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A.

Glad you didn't panic or ignore it.  There's an important lesson for everyone in your experience:  Faulty appliances can be very dangerous.

Jan 28, 2010 10:47 AM #7
Liz Moras Migic
Chilliwack, BC
Chilliwack, British Columbia - Realtor

What a good story to share - I'd have never have thought of it - and it's true about the fire extinguisher - we should probably have one on every floor!

Feb 01, 2010 05:04 PM #8
Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pros"

 I don't even know if I could work a fire extinquisher, I'd be in panic mode!  Great instincts.

Feb 16, 2010 03:26 PM #9
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Susan Peters

The Better it Looks the Better it Sells
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