We didn't start the fire! Oven fire smoke smell making me ill.
January 22, 2023 5:35 PM   Subscribe

I live in an apartment with a convention oven/microwave combo. Last Thursday, it overheated and shut down when I was trying to cook some food. This left an acrid 'electrical' smell in the place that is triggering my asthma something fierce if I'm in there for more than 10 mins at a time. I'm out of there now, catsitting, but that ends tomorrow. The repair person verified that I used the oven correctly. I'm working with building management, I have Renter's Insurance, and I am in the city of Seattle, WA.

More details:

Last Thursday afternoon, I tried to cook food in it, using the 'convection oven' feature - something I have done successfully numerous times in the past. Instead of preheating and baking normally, it overheated, and shut down during the 'preheating' cycle. This left an acrid 'electrical' smell in the place that is triggering my asthma something fierce if I'm in there for more than 10 mins at a time. I'm out of there now, catsitting, but that ends tomorrow. The repair person verified that I used the oven correctly.

The building management has been good about this so far, and I'm working with them - they have already repaired the convection oven/microwave combo, and I have the place airing out with open windows and a couple of HEPA filters running full whack 24/7. The building management also offered to get a 'scent removal' service called out, but I'd have to be out of the place for a solid 24 hours. I suspect that it's an ozone machine. I went ahead and requested that service, because 4 days of airing out the apartment isn't working.

My building does have other units available, and if I need to, there's a clause where I can break the lease for a fee, and completely move out. I'll do that if I have to, but I love my current apartment. Luckily, I work from home, and all I need is a laptop and steady access to wi-fi to do my job.

I just want to know what my options are, what does my LL have to do, do I qualify to make an insurance claim, do I call the Red Cross? I'm just lost here. Thank you.
posted by spinifex23 to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Ozone generators are not safe--I would check on whether that's what they're planning to do. (Sorry, that doesn't answer your question, but I would really avoid adding ozone to your problems.) Is the ventilation fan on above your stove?
posted by pinochiette at 7:11 PM on January 22

It is very unlikely that your insurance will help; they’re much more likely to listen quietly, deny your claim, and then raise your rates — they’re just not well-suited for anything that isn’t transparently terrible (like a tree falling through your dining area). If they can deny the claim, they will (eg: getting the adjuster to enter the space and say “well, it’s not bothering MY lungs! Case closed!”)
posted by aramaic at 8:14 PM on January 22

My building does have other units avaialable. …

How about asking them for a different oven? If they don’t have any sitting around, it would seem easier to exchange yours with one in a vacant unit than to move you into that unit.

If sources of the burnt smell have deposited on cabinetry, walls, or ceiling near the appliance, which seems fairly likely, you could cover those surfaces with aluminum foil taped at the edges.
posted by jamjam at 8:16 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

It's safe and effective to use an ozone generator when you aren't present so long as you air out the place after.

Additionally a filter with activated carbon should clean your air well enough if you can eliminate any sources. Maybe the walls nearby should be washed with TSP and any nearby fabrics laundered -- but I expect the ozone will be sufficient. I expect this smell is due to organic compounds and ozone is great at eliminating those.
posted by flimflam at 8:21 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]

Looks like flimflam beat me to the punch. Here's what I was writing.

Using an ozone generator to kill odors in a one-off application while the unit is unoccupied is perfectly fine.
The CARB thing in the link is primarily about "air purifiers" which generate ozone and are intended to be used in occupied spaces. Constant low level exposure to ozone is indeed bad.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 8:22 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Take a deep breath. It sounds like your landlord is being very responsive, is taking your issue seriously and taking responsible steps to address it.

If it turns out that is not enough, you said that there are other units in the building available. I'm guessing a reasonable landlord would allow you to move to another unit and treat like a transfer of the lease and not charge for anything extra (in other words no charge for "breaking" the lease when you are just moving from unit to another due to damage to the current unit)

I'm not sure what you are expecting from your renter's insurance or Red Cross but they are unlikely to help and, more importantly, you are already getting help from your landlord - I'm not sure what else they would do that isn't already being done.

Renter's insurance designed to pay for your loss in the event of the very specific catastrophes named in the policy. It doesn't sound like you have a loss here - no property damage, no cost to you for the cleanup so my guess is that there is no help here.

Red Cross provides only very basic services. My family member had a fire in his building with significant smoke damage to his place and Red Cross offered him emergency housing if he didn't have a friend to stay with and handouts on how to deal with smoke and water damage and smoke smells from his things. Again, no help here.
posted by metahawk at 10:02 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]

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