On heels of fire investigation, aging electrical infrastructure a concern

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -- The fire marshal in Bedford says a house that caught fire and killed a 4-year-old girl was more than 100 years old, and had multiple types of wiring inside it from different time periods.

The investigation found the electrical system was to blame. Aging electrical infrastructure is a serious concern for people in southwest and central Virginia, as well as historical parts of the Shenandoah Valley.

One Roanoke electrician said his guys see old wiring every single day. Many people love this area for the history, but it's those same old homes and buildings where they see this.

Some of the earliest wiring still in homes dates back to the early 1900s.

This knob and tube wiring was the best stuff at the time, and required room to breathe. In the 30's, cloth-insulated wire replaced it, and the 70's brought more modern plastic insulated wire.

The U.S. government says electrical fires are disproportionately high in homes older than 70 years old. D.J. Ostrom has been servicing homes in the Roanoke Valley for nearly 20 years.

In his opinion, a majority of the homes 60 years and older in the area still have the outdated wiring in them. People upgrade their plumbing, their roofs or their sewer pipes -- but none of those catch your house on fire.

"Does anybody drive around in a car with old brakes and no power steering? No. So you've got wiring in your house that may be that old or older, it's time to address it and make sure it is safe," Ostrom said.

Ostrom said getting rid of this old wire and re-wiring an entire house to modern standards can be costly - and also a hassle, because because electricians need to cut into the walls to run a lot of it. For that reason, many people just think 'out of mind, out of sight,' and leave the old wiring in place.

Having outdated wire in your house doesn't mean your house will catch fire. But it does mean that you need to be aware you have it and Ostrom said, when dealing with this older stuff, it's best to call a professional.