Posted: 4:56 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, 2012

Family blames new smart meter for sparking fire at home

Smart meter fires
A Decatur family is the first in the state to report their smart meter from Georgia Power caught fire.

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Smart meter fires photo
Georgia Power said it is willing to work with the homeowners to aid in repairs. Copeland-White believes the power company should pay for all the damages.
Smart meter fires photo
Videos posted online by smart meter opponents alleged they're a danger. One video shows a smart meter ignited on the side of a home.

By Jim Strickland

DECATUR, Ga. —

A Decatur family is the first in the state to report their smart meter from Georgia Power caught fire.

The utility just finished installing 2.4 million meters.

Consumer investigator Jim Strickland discovered the meters are similar to ones that have triggered a rash of fire reports elsewhere.

"This is the remains of the meter where the fire obviously started," demonstrated Elizabeth Copeland-White. She showed Strickland the melted outer housing of her smart meter.

The Whites are now using a generator and a tangle of extension cords. The house wiring is fried. Fire shot from around the smart meter Georgia Power had installed in 2010.

The digital meters allow the power company to read the meters by remote. They also help track outages.

"All of our customers have been upgraded to them and we've not had any safety issues," said spokesman Mark Williams.

Videos posted online by smart meter opponents alleged they're a danger. One video shows a smart meter ignited on the side of a home.

The Philadelphia utility PECO recently suspended their installation program for more than 600,000 meters after 29 fire reports.

PECO uses the same brand of meter as Georgia Power.

"It goes deeper than just me," said Copeland-White.

Georgia Power and a county inspector both said the problem wasn't the meter, but with the gray base box that's part of the house wiring.

The utility said they checked it out before switching meters.

"We do an inspection as thorough as we can and we will not install a meter if there's any possibility of a safety issue," said Williams.

Williams said the utility is willing to work with the homeowners to aid in repairs. Copeland-White believes the power company should pay for all the damages.

"If you put a product on my home, and that product causes a fire, even though it's limited, thanks to us, you have some responsibility," Copeland-White said.

The repair estimate stands at more than $11,000.

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