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Fire Safety Experts Warn That Bad Habits At Home Could End In Tragedy

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NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — The FDNY said the fire that took the life of a 15-year-old girl in Hamilton Heights on Monday was caused by a common household mistake — an overloaded power strip.

It was the same thing that caused a Jan. 5 high-rise fire that took the life of a 27-year-old man.

“You build up too much resistance. There’s too much electricity going through too small a wire. It may not trip a circuit breaker, but this will start to overheat and melt,” FDNY Capt. Kevin Anderson told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.

Anderson explained there are many other overlooked fire hazards that could be heating up in your home, including overloading a wall outlet with a power strip or adapter that is connected to another.

It’s a common problem in older homes to have limited electrical outlets. That’s why many people make this dangerous mistake, plugging in heavy appliances, like an air conditioner, into a power strip and then connecting it to an extension cord.

“If it keeps you or something else hot or cold it should be placed directly into a wall outlet,” Captain Anderson said.

Many people believe that thick orange extension cords are powerful enough to handle appliances like heaters or refrigerators, Captain Anderson explained.

“Which meanwhile it’s just as good as your usual lamp wire or extension cord,” he added.

Anderson said that the best way to prevent electrical fires is to try to limit your use of power strips and if possible to have an electrician install more wall outlets to meet your demand.

The Hamilton Heights fire broke out around 5:45 p.m. Monday in the six-story building at 512 W. 136th St. near Amsterdam Avenue. Melisa Mendez, 15, was found dead in the sixth floor stairwell.

The January fire in The Strand condominium tower, 500 W. 43rd St. took the life of playwright Daniel McClung, 27, as he tried to escape. McClung’s husband was critically injured.

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