About 4 years ago on one of the usual weekdays when my eldest son was out at work, my daughter-in-law was out shopping, and my two granddaughters were at school, they went about their daily business but did not know that their normal family life was going to change on that day forever.

When my daughter-in-law returned from her shopping trip, she looked up at the windows as she opened the garden gate and idly wondered why the net curtains had suddenly taken on a darker hue.  On opening the front door she was horrified to find that the house was full of thick, black smoke, which enveloped her as she stood there.


Choking, coughing and distraught, she phoned the fire brigade and then her parents and us.  The fire brigade discovered that the dishwasher had caught fire, although it hadn’t been in use at the time.  However, it was plugged in and switched on.  We learned from the fire brigade that this fire was the latest in a long line of similar events to befall unsuspecting householders who had gone out for the day but had not switched off and unplugged their appliances.  In some cases people had died in fires that could have been easily avoided.

My son and his family lost everything that day, and all they had left was their car and the clothes they stood up in.  Thankfully everybody had been out of the house, but all their possessions and precious keepsakes such as family photos and mementoes had gone.  My daughter-in-law’s parents had two spare bedrooms and they stayed with them for a week before their insurance company came up trumps and set them up in a furnished house while their own home was being re-plastered and re-painted.  We re-printed as many photos as we could find of their children for them, and people from their nearby church brought spare toys for the children and clothes.  In no time at all with a bit of help from us and other members of the family and also generous churchgoers they were on their feet again, but it took some months before they could finally move back into their house.

That episode taught us all to be more careful about leaving electrical appliances switched on.  To this day my daughter-in-law never leaves anything switched on, and I always make sure I switch off our dishwasher directly after use.  The fire brigade told us that it was usually their make of dishwasher that sometimes catches fire for some strange reason.  My husband thinks that probably the dishwasher’s wiring was faulty, and that most appliances are okay being left plugged in, but now he’s the first to check that that our dishwasher is always left unplugged when not in use!  As a teenager  I used to laugh at my old mum for constantly checking that all the plugs were pulled out before she left the house, but hey, perhaps she knew something that I did not!

Do you unplug your electrical appliances before you go out?  Are we too blasé about electricity?