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Blaze illustrates safety mistakes

ALBANY — Luckily, all 17 residents of a boarding house fire last week at 621 Pine Ave. escaped without injury.

While the fire resulted in no injuries, officials with the Albany Fire Department said the danger, trauma, inconvenience and estimated $19,000 in damage could have been avoided by some basic understanding of how some fires begin, said Sam Harris, investigator for the Albany Fire Department.

According to Harris, the Pine Avenue fire began in a front bedroom with a short in the cord of a small table lamp. The cord had been damaged, then knotted and repaired with electrician’s tape. The danger with those types of home repairs, Harris said, is that the cord can overheat, causing it to short and start a fire. In addition, Harris said it was clear that a 100 watt bulb had been placed in the lamp, which was rated for no more than about 60 watts.

“When the bulb is too big for the wattage, that can cause overheating and shorts. that can cause a fire,” Harris said.

On the opposite end of the charred, burned-out bedroom, Harris pointed to a wooden bookcase which half-way blocked a heater set into the wall.

“As soon as the cool weather gets here and that heater goes on, that’s just asking for trouble,” Harris said.

Albany Fire Chief James Carswell advises having any and all home electrical work done by a qualified electrician. In day-to-day electrical usage, Carswell warns that only one heat-producing appliance, such as a coffee maker or toaster, be plugged into a receptacle outlet at any one time. Extension cords should only be for temporary use, and even then should be of sufficient gauge to avoid dangerous electrical resistance and heat, Carswell said, especially in older homes with non-grounded receptacles.