We have been having problems with the lights in our basement for awhile now (few weeks), sometimes they will work, other times they just won't turn on.
Today I noticed a thin metal piece in the basement closet and I accidentally broke it off. I am pretty sure it was already breaking/loose because it snapped very easily. It was leading to the water pipe (where the main shutoff is) and just ends there with a metal loop and screw holding it in place. Or at least it was.
Immediately after it started to spark, because it swung and made contact with the piece it broke off of. The lights also started flickering. I managed to get it to stop sparking. But when I went upstairs to get a flashlight, the lights upstairs started flickering and the heat/ac unit had no power. Few mins later the bulbs started going out. I use fluorescents.
I'm freaking out a little bit now, turned off the power to the whole house. I originally was going to try to re-secure the metal tube but its not seeming like that will be enough. I'm hoping to call an electrician in the morning, how dangerous is this problem? Can I try to switch on just the heat and fridge? Plus who knows if I can get someone here tomorrow...
The house is about 30yrs old, with both copper and aluminum wiring.
Update: thanks for all the answers, thankfully was able to get electrician here the next morning, my fiance was mad that there was stuff in that closet. Neither one of us knew that wire was for electricity. He fixed it, it was a grounding wire, apparently also there was corrosion on the outside of the house next to the meter.
So not safe to put anything near the grounding wire now that it's fixed? I wasn't home to ask the electrical myself. If not, I'm surprised there are shelves in the closet..?? It's about 4x2 feet, small shelves about 1x2 on each side, with the pipe and grounding wire in the middle. Alive and well, no fires phew. Furnace transponder blew though, which supposedly will be expensive to fix, circuit didn't blow :(