Thanks to the hot and humid South Florida weather, Floridian families don’t often need to use their heater systems in the home. When the temperature drops uncharacteristically low, however, some people turn theirs on after years of inactivity.
Such was the case at a home in Plantation, FL, when an HVAC unit broke out into flames when a man turned his heat on for the first time in 10 years.
According to the local ABC News affiliate in Miami, FL, a family was displaced in the early morning hours of Monday, Jan. 25, due to a fire that broke out in the home’s heating and air conditioning system.
Although the official cause of the fire is still unknown, homeowner Rob Ramirez told a local news reporter that he turned on the heater at about 4 a.m. to warm up the home and then noticed a weird smell. He said it was the first time he had used the heater in about a decade.
That “weird smell” emanating from the vents didn’t faze Ramirez at first. He said he “didn’t think much about it since he hadn’t used his heater in so long, but soon he smelled smoke.” As the smoke thickened, he grabbed his son, his son’s friend, and their dog, and then evacuated the house. Just minutes later, massive flames were rising from the roof.
“I was trying to figure out where the smoke was coming from and thought I’d go and grab the hose, but that didn’t work out too well,” Ramirez said.
Plantation Fire Battalion Chief Joel Gordon said the damage is consistent with a fire started by a central air conditioning unit.
“We were able to get inside and discovered the fire was up in the attic,” he said. “It appears to have started in the [air conditioning and] heating unit, which was up in the attic space.”
Because of the recent dip in temperatures, many people have been turning their heat on and noticing that same funny smell. Gordon said that smell is because of the dust that builds up on the idle coils of the AC unit. He urges that it is important to clean them or wipe them down before turning the heaters on.
“This is a clear case of how important it is to have your central AC and heating system checked bi-annually. A thorough inspection in the summer to test the cooling is as important as a thorough inspection in the winter to test the heating parts of your system. You should also ask your contractor to provide you with a complete report on the performance of your central AC and heating system,” said Cale Mazarz, Sales & Marketing Manager, ABS Air Conditioning.
The fire tore through Ramirez’s home and up through the attic. It took 40 firefighters and seven trucks to put out the blaze. Although they had the flames under control in about 20 minutes, fire officials have deemed the home uninhabitable; most of the roof was burned to ashes.
Thankfully, there were no injuries reported as a result of this air conditioning unit fire.