Power strip caused city fire that killed 6 Multiple-outlet box was in living room, officials say

March 18, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

City fire investigators have determined that the fire that killed six children two weeks ago was started by a power strip, a rectangular box with several electrical outlets that plugs into a wall outlet.

The fire, which broke out shortly after midnight March 3 in the living room of a rowhouse in the 600 block of N. Lakewood Ave. in East Baltimore, caused thick smoke that smothered the children, who were sleeping in a second-floor bedroom. The fire killed Brandon Allen, 12, Bradley Walker, 9, Joseph Miller, 7, Frederick Ebanks 3rd, 5, Ernest Ebanks 3rd, 2, and Sharkira Walker, 2.

Frederick Ebanks Jr., 27, had told fire investigators that the living room television set had been left on all night, and that became a focus of the investigation.

The power strip that fire investigators believe started the blaze was behind the television set and also was used for a stereo system, said Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a department spokesman.

Ordinarily, power strips can handle heavy loads of electricity and are safe to use. The one in the rowhouse should have been able to handle the current drawn by a television and stereo, Torres said.

"It doesn't look like it was used inappropriately, but it's very possible it was defective," Torres said. "It's possible it was damaged in some way. It's anybody's guess at this point why that device malfunctioned."

The March 3 fire was the worst in terms of fatalities since a Feb. 27, 1994, blaze killed seven children and two adults in West Baltimore. A month earlier, another fire in West Baltimore claimed seven lives.

The worst previous fire this year occurred Jan. 19 when four members of four generations of a family were killed in Reservoir Hill.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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