Authorities warn of TikTok viral video challenge that’s causing fires

Posted at 10:09 PM, Jan 22, 2020

HOLDEN, Mass. (WBZ) — The Massachusetts Fire Marshal is warning of a viral video challenge that could cause a fire. Peter J. Ostroskey wrote in a letter to fire departments about the trend on social media platform TikTok that he calls an “unsafe use of electricity and fire.”

“It involves using the plug part of a phone charger, partially inserting it into the wall outlet, and then sliding a penny down the wall onto the exposed prongs,” Ostroskey writes. “The result is sparks, electrical system damage, and in some cases fire.”

So far the challenge has been linked to scorched outlets in Plymouth and Holden and a fire at Westford Academy. A Westford student who participated in the challenge is facing charges, Ostroskey said.

Firefighters responded to Plymouth North High School at about 12:15 p.m. Tuesday afternoon for a report of an electrical outlet that was sparking.

A teacher told firefighters that two students had plugged the charger in and dropped the penny between the outlet and charger causing the outlet to spark and smoke. Photos shared by the Plymouth Fire Department show the penny fused to the charger. No one was injured in the incident.

“The other issue can be that you do damage to some electrical wiring behind the wall and a fire could be undetected and burning in the walls, endangering everyone that’s in the building,” said Plymouth Fire Chief Ed Bradley.

Plymouth Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Maestas called the incident an “irresponsible act.”

“We are working with the Plymouth Police and Fire Departments to fully understand the scope of this issue and pursue charges to the fullest extent of the law,” Maestas said in a statement.

A video of the challenge can be seen here. Some of the YouTube comments include “I almost caused an electrical fire” and “My son just did this and blew out the power in half the our house.”

Parents are being advised to look for signs of their kids participating in this challenge, and to have a conversation with them about fire and electrical safety.