The cause of last week’s fire at Powder Hounds restaurant was electrical, according to local and state fire investigators.
The cause of last week's fire at Powder Hounds restaurant was electrical, according to local and state fire investigators. (Ben Garver, Berkshire Eagle Staff)
Wednesday October 17, 2012

HANCOCK -- State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and Hancock Fire Chief David R. Rash announced the cause of last week's fire at Powder Hounds restaurant at 147 Brodie Mountain Road was electrical.

The fire started at an overloaded power strip in an office room inside the restaurant. Damages are estimated at $125,000.

The fire was jointly investigated by members of the Hancock Fire Department, State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The ATF frequently joins investigations at commercial properties.

An electrical problem is also being blamed for starting the fire that displaced three families from a multi-unit housing structure on Dartmouth Street in Pittsfield Monday night.

According to the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System, fire departments responded to 760 structure fires caused by electrical problems in Massachusetts in 2011. Electrical fires were the leading cause of structure fire deaths in 2011.

These fires caused 14 civilian deaths, one fire service death, 27 civilian injuries, 81 fire service injuries and an estimated dollar loss of $30.7 million, accounting for 14 percent of the total dollar loss to fire in 2011. The average loss per fire was $40,337.

"Our electrical needs are constantly growing so it is important to have a professional check-up of the electrical systems periodically. Safely meeting our electrical needs can prevent overloading circuits," Coan said. The fire marshal's offers the following safety tips on identifying and fixing electrical hazards:

· Release cords pinched behind furniture like couches or bureaus.

· Avoid having more than one appliance cord plugged into one wall outlet at a time.

· Beware overloaded power strips. They should only be used with a few low-current devices.

· Avoid using light bulbs higher than the recommended wattage in lamps and light fixtures. Most lamps recommend 60 watts.

· Move electrical cords from underneath rugs, carpet or furniture to reduce the risk of fire from overheating due to worn insulation.

· Replace cords with frayed wires or cracked insulation with new ones having a certification label from an independent testing laboratory.

· Do not use an extension cord that is not properly rated for the appliance it powers. Typical "lamp cord" extension cords cannot carry the electrical current needed for appliances such as space heaters or air conditioners.

· Do not nail cords or wires into place. This can cause electrical shorts and arcing.

· Indoor appliances and cords should not be used outdoors.