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Electrical overload blamed for blaze; Woman who jumped is expected to live.

Byline: Paula J. Owen

FITCHBURG - An overloaded extension cord was the cause of a blaze on Daniels Street Tuesday morning that displaced 24 people, including a woman severely injured when she jumped from her third-floor apartment to escape the blaze. Three firefighters were also injured.

Fitchburg Fire Lt. Sally A. Tata said officials believe the fire started in a second-floor apartment.

The three-alarm fire broke out at 122-124 Daniels St. shortly after 9 a.m. Flames and smoke quickly spread to the top two floors of the hillside structure. There is a walk-out basement.

Lt. Tata said a tenant in a first-floor apartment was providing electricity to a tenant in a second-floor apartment whose electricity was shut off for nonpayment. A power strip connected to an extension cord running up to the upper floor and multiple, lightweight extension cords running off it powering cellphone chargers, lamps, a refrigerator and other devices.

"It could have been prevented," Lt. Tata said. "A lot of fires are caused by extension cords."

She added that the owner of the building said he previously told the tenant to remove the extension cords."But it is hard as a landlord to monitor what tenants are doing," Lt. Tata said.

A woman who jumped to the ground from her apartment on the third floor was identified as Tonia Blanton, 34. She was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center - University Campus in Worcester with cracked vertebrae, broken bones and a punctured lung. She is expected to survive, according to the state fire marshal's office. The hospital was not able to provide her condition yesterday.

Extension cords build up heat, Lt. Tata said, if they are coiled up, pinched by doors or windows, or if they run under carpeting where they can't release heat. If they are spliced in an area, she said, they should be thrown out, and they should also not be used to power heavy-load appliances such as air conditioners or refrigerators.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 8, 2012
Words:326
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