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Faulty cord may have caused George Street fire

February 03, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

A Tuesday night blaze that gutted a two-story duplex and damaged a duplex next door likely was caused by a faulty cord on a refrigerator, according to Hagerstown Fire Marshal John Hersh.

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Hersh spent several hours at 620-622 George St. Thursday examining the contents after contractors used a crane to remove the roof of the wood-frame house.

The building was owned by Thomas Reilly, who lived there with his family.

The fire started at 620 George St. and spread to 622, and then to the duplex next door at 616-618 George St. The fire caused some damage to the roof and interior of 618. The second duplex is owned by Doug Diehl of Smithsburg and is rented out to two families.

No one was injured in the blaze.

In determining the cause, Hersh said he looked for the origin of the fire by determining which area sustained the most fire damage.

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"Fires burn hotter and heavier where they originated," he said. In the Reilly home, that was the kitchen.

After finding the origin, "it's a process of elimination" to find the source, he said.

He narrowed it down to either the refrigerator or a light, both of which were plugged into the same outlet.

Hersh said the outlet was in working order and the home had been rewired and inspected in 1996.

"I am convinced it's not the wiring," he said.

Hersh said the refrigerator in the Reilly home was bought at an auction and was unsure of its age. An inspection determined it also would have been functioning properly, he said.

"I'm confident the refrigerator didn't malfunction," he said.

The cord from the refrigerator to the outlet may have been damaged and ignited, said Hersh.

The fire would have burned slowly, he said.

The stove in the kitchen and a nearby electric heater were eliminated as possible sources because of the burn patterns, he said.

Reilly's building will be torn down as soon as possible because it isn't structurally sound as a result of the fire, he said.

Damage to 616-618 George St. can be repaired, he said.

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