Two Plymouth North High School students scorched electrical outlets in a classroom on Tuesday when they mimicked a viral trend where people videotape themselves sparking a fire using an iPhone charger and a penny, fire officials said.
Around noon, the Plymouth Fire Department responded to a report of an arcing electrical outlet at the school and found the pronged part of an iPhone charger blackened and scorched, along with a penny fused to the prongs.
According to a report from fire Chief G. Edward Bradley, a teacher told firefighters that students had duplicated the practice — partially plugging the charger in and dropping a penny between the outlet and exposed charger prongs to cause smoke and sparks — twice in the classroom.
Firefighters confirmed that there was no fire in the classroom, the room was deemed safe, and there were no injuries.
“These actions are extremely dangerous and could potentially start a fire and cause thousands of dollars in property damage,” Bradley said in his report. “It could also cause serious injury to anyone who is nearby. These actions are also grounds for criminal charges.”
The “dangerous trend,” as Bradley reported, is featured on the popular video app TikTok, and can cause electrical system damage or in some cases, fire.
A video of the TikTok challenge shows the results of re-enacting it.
Plymouth Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary E. Maestas issued a statement on Tuesday night saying they’re working with Plymouth police and fire officials to understand the issue and pursue charges.
The Plymouth Police Department and State Fire Marshal’s Office are both investigating the incident.
“Our youth are exposed to a variety of influences in society,” Maestas wrote. “I am happy to report that there were no injuries or significant damage to Plymouth North High School as a result of their irresponsible act of shorting out an electrical outlet. This act has ignited fires in other schools in Massachusetts and other states, causing disruption of the school day and significant damages to schools.”
An advisory issued by State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey to all heads of fire departments and all Student Awareness of Fire Education teachers, detailed two other incidents in Massachusetts.
One occurred in Holden, where a mother sent a photo of a scorched outlet to local media, and another at Westford Academy, where the students responsible are now facing charges.
“This video is a concern and similar to past viral videos that encourage unsafe behavior,” Ostroskey said. “You might reach out to local news outlets, school officials, and parent organizations. Alert them to this challenge, advise them to, not only look for signs of fire play like scorched outlets, but to have conversations about fire and electrical safety with tweens and teenagers.”
Chief Bradley offered similar safety reminders for parents and children to “recognize dangerous activity they may witness on the internet” and discuss it.
“Luckily no one was hurt today,” Bradley said of Tuesday’s incident, “but we urge parents to talk to their children about this troubling trend and tell them how dangerous it is to themselves and others.”