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Exension Cord Blamed in Fire That Killed 10

February 18, 1991

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) _ An overloaded extension cord connected to an electric space heater was blamed for a tenement fire that killed 10 people, most of them children and teen-agers, investigators said.

The cord ran under a living room chair that burst into flames when a spark from a shorted circuit melted the cord’s insulation, Fire Chief Thomas Keough said Sunday.

″The use of a lighter-gauge extension cord in conjunction with the electric heater is the cause of the ignition,″ Keough said.

The state medical examiner’s office confirmed that all the victims - three adults, three teen-agers and four children - died of smoke inhalation in the fire Saturday that consumed the three-story building. Another eight people escaped.

Angel Torres, a tenant in the first-floor apartment where the fire began, said he had complained repeatedly about a lack of heat in his apartment and kept four space heaters - one in each room - going 24 hours a day to keep his family warm.

A spokesman for the Connecticut Natural Gas Co. said meters showed all three apartments in the building were supplied with gas.

Temperatures dipped to near-zero the morning of the fire. Torres, who helped his family escape, said his 13-year-old nephew was sleeping in the living room and was the first to notice the velour love seat on fire.

″I woke up when I smelled the smoke,″ said the nephew, Wilfredo Matias Aviles. ″I saw the side of the chair on fire.″

Firefighters arrived a minute after the alarm sounded, Keough said. The fire was so fierce that authorities believed it had burned for some time.

Damage was so severe, investigators couldn’t find evidence of smoke detectors. But Keough said they had no reason to doubt the landlord’s assertion that he had installed smoke detectors throughout the building.

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