Smokey Bear Says 5-Light Multi-colored Floor Lamps Cause Campus Fires

SUNY Fredonia warns a cheap decorative lamp is setting dorm rooms on fire. Pretty, inexpensive lamps like these can often be found in college dorms and studio apartments.

In two separate student rooms, the plastic shades melted on the lamps. In one room, this caused the build-up of toxic fumes and the melted plastic from the shade burned a hole in the bedspread. The second instance involved another student who had turned on the lamp and, within 15 minutes, the shade melted and the heat began to turn a poster on the wall brown.

Underwriters Laboratories, the group that certifies that things won’t burn down dorms and studio apartments, believes the lamp in question is different from the one they approved. They are withholding their seal from new lamps, effectively shutting down production.

SUNY’s notice warns the lamps are available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Walmart. The former seems to have removed the lamp from their site, but good old reliable Walmart is still selling the luminous tinderbox. “Color shades include red, blue, green, yellow, white, and FIRE!” Ok, we made that last one up. If you have the lamp, beware. Only you can prevent campus fires. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

5-Light Lamp Issue [SUNY Fredonia via Consumer Reports]


Edit Your Comment

  1. acambras says:

    Given how long it has taken Wallyworld to get the Totenkopf shirts off its shelves, it ought to be interesting to see how long they drag their feet on this one.

  2. infinitysnake says:

    Crap, my son has this lamp..I wonder if they will take it back?

  3. Hitchcock says:

    Has anyone confirmed its actually a problem with the lamp? It might be only rated for a 40w bulb, but people are sticking in 100w ones instead.

    I know this is a very common problem. The max wattage is there for a reason, and usually has to do either with the wiring not being able to handle the current, or the materials not being able to handle the heat.

  4. AcidReign says:

    …..Reminds me of what we did for a lamp back when I was in school. Only, ours never caught the building on fire; surely a triumph for Auburn engineers! Seeing as how the dorm administrators decided that each room, with it’s cavernous twelve foot ceilings, needed only a fixture with two 25 watt bulbs way up high, we decided that SOMETHING had to be done…

    …..Back in the 70s, you could go to the drug store and buy what was called a “socket cord” for about a buck. This was essentially a cheap light socket, cord, and wall plug. We took an old 2-liter plastic soda bottle and cut a slot out of the bottom of it, to pass the cord through. Back then, such bottles were pretty heavy, and had a big base cup glued on, too. Certainly they were a lot more stable than the industry’s modern day “please spill me and buy more” bottles.

    …..After the cord was run down through the bottle, we’d duct tape the socket to the top of the bottle. Then, we’d put in a 200 watt bulb. With an old metal coat hanger and a pair of wire cutters, we made a little lampshade frame that sat balanced on top of the bulb. To the frame we scotch-taped a makeshift lampshade made of an old campus newspaper. (The Auburn Plainsman, a spirit that is not afraid.)

    …..And behold, we had light on our desk, 200 big watts of it! It was a design much copied around the dorm. This was perfect decor to match ye olde cinderblock/milk rack/plywood shelving units we built.

  5. boy says:

    Oh noes!

    Someone should warn The Google!

  6. AcidReign says:

    …..And contrary to the AU-barn jokes sure to follow, I did learn proper use of “it’s” there. Too bad I didn’t edit the damned thing before I sent it…

  7. muddgirl says:

    I’m betting students are putting 60 watt bulbs in the 25 watt sockets. After all, 25 watt bulbs aren’t all that common compared to 60, 70, or 100 watt bulbs.

  8. Grimmtooth says:

    A picture of the actual lamp as seen on the shelves (rather than the melted down image above) would be more helpful to anyone wishing to avoid purchasing these things. Nobody’s looking to buy melted lamps, or at least that’s my suspicion.

    Also: the UL is not a regulatory body. It is a for-profit commercial enterprise which has over time become perceived as on par with, say, the FCC, but it is not. Its rulings do not carry the weight of law, and said company is free to manufacture as many lamps as it wants as long as it does not claim UL approval. I just want to make that clear: UL withdrawing approval does not “shut down production”.

    With that in mind, don’t assume that if one sees the things reappear on the shelves, they’ve ‘fixed’ the problem.

  9. lemur says:

    It would be nice if people RTFA before commenting. From the article:

    The heat from a light bulb of correct wattage in the ‘5-Light Multicolored Floor Lamp’ had begun melting its plastic shade, which was dripping onto the resident’s bedspread.

    Emphasis added to point out what should in fact be obvious.

  10. markymags says:


    You beat me to it! I was going to post the same thing… but mine probably wouldn’t have had the emphasis in it though…

  11. Coronagold says:

    Puh-lease, it’s “RAWR!”
    Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

    Wasn’t it in the 1970s we were being warned by the media that florescent bulbs were driving office workers crazy? Yes, it was. So now let’s bring that flickering humming tungsten maddening (not madding) glow to our home away from home. Mainly, Home.

    But remember, every normal bulb you replace in your Home will be avenged by an angry lone driver-less SUV lurking to take you and your loved ones down.

  12. Charles Duffy says:


    Withholding UL listing certainly does shut down production (at least temporarily) if they’re only geared up to produce lamps with a UL trademark on them.

  13. I have been using the exact lamp pictured, purchased from Bed, Bath and Beyond, for almost two years now. I have 60 watt bulbs in it. I use it all the time, and currently after having been on for at least 4 hours, the plastic shades are not unusually warm. The inside of the plastic shades also show no sign of melting or damage.

    Either some people got defective lamps, or they are using too high wattage bulbs.

  14. SexCpotatoes says:

    OMG, my peanutbutter cans are from walmort, and they don’t have a coder on thems. I don’t unnerstand what the Salmonella scare was all about, I ain’t gotten sick off the PB & J’s I been eatin’.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I had the non-multicolored version of this lamp a while back. The shade on one of the lamps (with proper bulb) came loose and rested on the bulb and melted all over the bulb. About two weeks later the plastic that anchors all five “arms” broke and they all started hanging down in random directions.

  16. superbmtsub says:

    Ugly lamp for stupid people with hot consequences.

  17. orielbean says:

    The lamp has 5 flexible gooseneck heads on it, with a different-colored shade for each head. I got a nice chrome one of the same design and unscrewed the heads to use for other lamp projects.

    The dangerous one is seen in Lowe’s and HD as well as Walmart. I didn’t see it in Target anywhere. It looks like a basic floor lamp – round base, round post, coming up to the 5-head hydra design. The goosenecks are like podium microphone necks, with the light at the end of the neck.

    Now, if you REALLY REALLY like the neck design, I know that the home improve stores will sell other heads that fit on these necks. The track lighting section usually has a broad selection of shades to use on the necks and they are standard. Try using a CFL bulb instead of an incandescent if you love lamp.

    And for the record, many retailers have agreements with their insurance companies to only sell UL-certified products for this type of item, so this would have a VERY BIG impact on production.