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Fire officials concerned about dangerous TikTok challenge which causes fires

A new challenge on the popular social media app TikTok is sparking concern from both parents and fire officials. In a letter alerting fire departments and educators, Massachusetts Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said the "outlet challenge" is "an unsafe use of electricity and fire." 

He explained that the viral video challenge, which "encourages unsafe behavior," involves teens recording themselves sliding a penny behind a phone charger that is partially plugged into an electrical outlet. The goal is to cause sparks, electrical system damage, and in some cases, fires.  

So far, the letter said three incidents have been reported in Massachusetts, including two in schools. 

The incident in Plymouth North High School on Tuesday was caused by two students who used a penny along with a cellphone charger to short-circuit an electrical outlet, according to Plymouth Chief of Police Michael E. Botieri. 

"This behavior is very dangerous and has potential to cause serious damage to property as well as serious injury to students," Botieri said. He added that "anyone involved will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

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A mom in Holden, Mass., took this photo of an outlet scorched by the dangerous "outlet challenge." Peter J. Ostroskey, Massachusetts State Fire Marshal

Both 15-year-old students are charged with two counts of attempted arson and malicious damage to property under $1,200, Plymouth police said in a statement.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gary Maestas said "no injuries or significant damage" was reported as a result of their "irresponsible act."

At Westford High School on Friday, the challenge caused a fire and forced the school to be evacuated. Officials said the student(s) responsible will also be facing charges. 

Another incident was reported in Holden, after a concerned mother sent a photo of a scorched electric socket to a news outlet.

Ostroskey is urging parents and educators to look for signs of fire play like scorched outlets, and to have conversations about fire and electrical safety with tweens and teenagers to prevent more incidents from taking place. 

Some of the troubling comments posted alongside a YouTube video of the challenge include, "I almost caused an electrical fire," and "My son just did this and blew out the power in half the our house."

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