Computer fires severe enough to prompt a 911 call are so unusual that when it does happen, local media sometimes makes note of it. That was the case in Arlington, Va., recently, when firefighters found a computer burning on the balcony of an apartment complex.
According to the Arlington County Fire Dept., the resident of the apartment had built his own desktop computer. The computer wasn't in use, but was plugged in -- and the resident was in another room when it caught fire.
"He was alerted to the fire by the sound of the smoke alarm and then found smoke coming from his hard drive," said department Lt. Sarah-Maria Marchegiani.
The resident carried the computer out to the balcony after it caught on fire, according to a local media report on Arlington Now.
Thanks to working smoke detectors, the fire was found and extinguished quickly. There were no injuries and property damage was limited, said Marchegiani.
"Computer fires are fairly rare for us," said Marchegiani. That may be the case nationally, as well.
From 2007 through 2011, local fire departments responded to an average of 350 computer fires per year, according to a study (PDF) by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
"It's a fairly small number, but they do happen," said Marty Ahrens, manager of fire analysis services at NFPA.
Other components that are associated with fire department calls included a yearly average of 61 computer printer fires, as well as 46 computer monitor fires per year.
Detachable power cords, which can be used by computers as well as other devices, are responsible for an average of just over 300 fires per year, according to NFPA data. This number isn't included in the computer-related total.