Fire claims lives of dog, cat

Extension cord caused blaze during busy weekend for Hazel Park Fire Department

By: Andy Kozlowski | Online Only | Published January 28, 2013

HAZEL PARK — A cat loose in the bedroom and a 6-month-old puppy trapped in its crate died of smoke inhalation when a fire resulted from an electrical malfunction while the homeowners were out of the house Jan. 26.

“It’s tough, being a pet owner myself,” said Hazel Park Fire Capt. Rich Story. “It hurts. It feels good when you can rescue them, but that did not happen in this case, unfortunately.”

The animals were found dead inside the 500-square-foot bungalow-style house in the 100 block of West Maxlow. A neighbor noticed smoke spilling out of the windows and called 911 around 3 p.m. When firefighters arrived, the fire had already settled down.

“There was still some fire in the house, but the house seemed locked up tight,” Story said. “The fire started, ran out of oxygen and snuffed itself out; it was still smoldering, however, and had a lot of heat, breaking one of the upper window panes. Had we not got there when we did, it probably would’ve started again, since the oxygen would’ve gotten in. When we kicked the door in, we swept through the house and put it out.”

Fire investigators from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department have classified the fire as “accidental electrical.” Hazel Park’s own fire investigators agreed with this assessment. They determined the cause was an undersized extension cord used for a large space heater, which fried the extension cord and ignited the blaze.

“If anything, don’t use any extension cords, if you can get away with it, because they’re just not safe — they’re a temporary fix to anything,” Story said. “But if you have to use one, go with a heavy-duty orange cord.

“Unfortunately, in these tough economic times, they were using this for their primary heat,” he said. “You sympathize with them, but it’s not wise to do what they did.”

Once the extension cord lit up, it appears the fire spread to the couch. The living room was completely destroyed. The rest of the house suffered smoke and water damage.

Whenever Hazel Park confirms a structure fire, their auto aid program calls backup from Madison Heights and Ferndale. However, once Hazel Park saw the fire had burned itself out, Story cancelled with them before they arrived.  

The weekend didn’t slow down once Hazel Park firefighters stopped the Maxlow fire. Shortly thereafter, at 4:30 p.m. the same day, a kitchen fire broke out in the 600 block of East Brickley, where someone had left a stove unattended.

Then, at 8 p.m. the next day, another kitchen fire broke out at a house in the 800 block of Hazelwood. A woman tried to put out the grease fire and wound up burning her hands; she was hospitalized and recovering at press time.

“If you’re cooking, pay attention to what you’re cooking,” Story said. “Don’t go watch TV, play video games or text.

“We’ve been slow lately, fire-wise, but this weekend picked it up substantially,” he said. “The cold weather doesn’t help. If your heat doesn’t work well, you put heaters out, but some people don’t maintain their equipment, and they’re overtaxing them because it’s cold. These problems are more common in the cold.”