Karen and Floyd Clardy remember hearing a giant pop from the garage. The lights in their Lake Highlands home went out, and suddenly there were flames.

They watched as fire spread from the garage to the attic and two rooms in the house, causing $160,000 worth of structural damage.

“The breaker box was shooting flames, and there were sparks,” Karen Clardy said.

Dallas Fire-Rescue determined that the fire in March started in the electrical panel in the garage. The Clardys’ home was equipped with a Federal Pacific Stab-Lok, a type of circuit breaker in thousands of North Texas homes that is now widely thought by engineers, electricians and house inspectors to be defective – and dangerous.

Experts first began saying in 1980 that a high percentage of the circuit breakers failed to trip. After testing the devices for about two years, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said the government lacked sufficient data to warrant a recall. No warning was ever issued.

But in recent years, engineers studying them independently have found that the circuit breakers can overload and cause fires. Many have been replaced in the decades since they were manufactured, but one expert estimates they are still used in 20 million homes nationwide…

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