Related topics

Electrical Short Preceded Fatal Mo. Fire

December 19, 2006

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Hours before a fatal fire at a Missouri group home, a maintenance man trying to fix a furnace shorted the electrical wiring running through the attic where investigators believe the fire started, according to documents released Tuesday.

The investigation report by the state fire marshal’s office did not pinpoint an exact cause of the Nov. 27 fire that killed 10 and injured dozens at the Anderson Guest House. But it listed an electrical short or overload in the attic as a possible cause.

The information about the maintenance man’s work on Nov. 26 was included in the fire marshal’s investigation report released to The Associated Press under a state open-records law request. The report labels the investigation as non-criminal.

Documents show that the maintenance man told a fire marshal’s investigator he had used pliers to stick a wire into an open outlet in the furnace room in order to trip the breaker while he worked on the furnace.

Deputy state fire marshal Bill Zieres told the AP on Tuesday that the short-circuit would cause an unusual amount of heat to move through the wires, which in this case ran through the attic.

Investigators have said previously that they found evidence of improper wiring elsewhere in the attic. Poor wiring would be more susceptible to starting a fire when overloaded by a short-circuit, Zieres said.

``That is among the things that could cause damage, but there’s no way for anybody to prove it at this point because of the extent of the fire damage in that area″ of the attic, Zieres said.

Earlier this month, documents obtained by The Associated Press indicated that several months before the fire, state regulators had sought to take away the home operator’s license because of concerns that it had failed to pay taxes and faced potential financial insolvency.

Instead of denying licenses to Joplin River of Life Ministries Inc., the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services granted a series of temporary permits that allowed its home for the mentally ill and disabled to remain open.

Update hourly