Smart meter fires: Sensus now faces questions from fire chiefs in Nevada

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In the US, Sensus smart meters are being implicated as the cause of a number of fires in the counties of Reno-Sparks in western Nevada, with fire chiefs speaking out with safety concerns, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The fire department has asked the Public Utilities Commission to investigate the safety of smart meters installed by US energy company NV Energy following nine fires in the two counties.

Fatal fire

The latest incident involved the death of a 61-year-old woman when her townhouse in Rhinestone Circle caught fire.

Although a a forensic expert hired by the city stated that the meter could not be ruled out as the source of the blaze, he noted that the smart meter transmitted information to NV Energy 49 seconds after the 911 call came in, indicating it continued to function well after the fire started and making it “less likely” that the meter caused the fire.

An investigator hired by NV Energy, who was given access to all of the fire department’s evidence, said the fact the meter continued to transmit information proves it did not spark the Rhinestone Circle fire.

“It is not physically possible for the meter to have communicated normally after an arcing event occurred that had been initiated internally to the electric meter,” NV Energy’s investigator wrote.

“It is therefore not physically possible that the fire originated at the electric utility meter, hence the meter could not possibly have been the cause of the fire.”

Public safety

Fire chiefs however are keen to point out that since 2012, four fires have occurred in Reno and five fires have occurred in Sparks that city investigators say are linked to the smart meters manufactured by North Carolina-based Sensus. Those investigators, however, have been unable to conclusively determine what started the blazes.

“We’re taking this problem very seriously and we have from the very beginning,” Sparks Fire Chief Tom Garrison said Friday. “We tried diligently to determine the scope of the potential problem. We’ve done many things to conclusively explain why these fires were starting. So far, we don’t have a definitive reason.”

The news comes as Sensus paid Canadian utility SaskPower US$24 million in cash towards the cost of the product recall and replacement of 100,000 units in Saskatchewan.

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