Faulty Extension Cords Caused Fire
The fire at the Walnut Street rooming house in East Providence overnight Sunday is ruled an 'accidental electrical fire'; it almost claimed the lives of three firefighters.
Faulty extension cords that were being used as permanent electrical wiring are being blamed as the cause of the fire at the 8-unit rooming house at 100 Walnut St. in East Providence Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
It's a blaze that came close to claiming the lives of three firefighters who were cut off for a while when they went into the house to look for an occupant who was not there.
Acting East Providence Fire Chief Oscar Elmasian said Sunday afternoon that the fire is being ruled an “accidental electrical fire.” Jim Bellamy, East Providence's acting fire marshal, the state fire marshal and the East Providence crime investigation team made the ruling about the smokey fire.
The blaze caused heavy fire damage to the top floor of the 2 ½-story house. There was heavy smoke and water damage to the first two floors, Elmasian said.
There were no injuries to any of the six occupants, Elmasian said. One firefighter suffered a minor injury but stayed at the scene.
A possible tragedy was averted though, the fire chief said.
“Three firefighters were cut off from getting out of the house,” he said. “Let’s put it this way, they could not get out the way they got in.”
“We came close to losing a company (Engine 1),” Elmasian said.
But the firefighters were rescued through a window by a ladder truck without injury, and soon all firefighters were evacuated from the house, he said, as the two ladder trucks poured water into the house from the third-floor levels.
“You can never have anyone in the house in that situation,” he said.
The fire was called in at 10:19 pm by one of the six occupants, who tried to fight the fire with a couple of extinguishers. But the fire, which started on the first floor, got up into an outside wall and soon spread to the top floor.
“That’s pretty typical for this type of balloon construction,” Elmasian said.
Firefighters also had to deal with shed, dormer and mansard roof styles on the house, he said, making it very difficult to knock down the blaze. A generator in Ladder 3 also had a temporary malfunction for a while, Elmasian said.
Elmasian said fire inspectors found on Sunday an extension cord that ran from the basement through the first floor to a surface-mounted electrical outlet. Another extension cord ran from the outlet around the perimeter of the room.
It was spliced with electrical tape to another extension cord that “had multiple electronic appliances plugged into it,” said Elmasian. “The cord was arcing and beating.”
That extension cord ran from the first floor up the exterior wall to the second and third floors.
Elmasian said the use of temporary extension cords is a violation of the fire code. But it is not known how long they have been in the house, he said, or even if the current owner, Sage Realty, knew about them.
The house was being boarded up without power or utilities. It was anticipated that the occupants would taken into the house Sunday afternoon to gather personal items. The city building inspector will make a ruling on the safety of the house.
"It's been turned over to him," said Elmasian.
Two ladder companies and five engine companies responded to the fire. Pawtucket, Barrington and Providence fire companies staffed the East Providence fire stations during the blaze.