Local News

Fayetteville Fire Kills One

Posted August 18, 1999

— Mary Robinson, 36, died in her mobile home while trying to escape a fire Thursday morning. Fire officials say Robinson collapsed by the back door.

Lester Spell had just left for work when he received a call from fire investigators to return home. He arrived to learn that his common-law wife had died in the fire at their home.

"The flames were going so hot and going out the door. We couldn't do a thing," said neighbor Frances Allen.

Emergency crews tried to perform CPR at the scene, but they were unsuccessful.

Robinson's son was staying with relatives at the time of the fire. He and other family members spent the morning assessing the damage.

Fire investigators said several extension cords attached together were running all around the bedroom. A television and other appliances were also plugged in.

It was too much current for a string of small cords. "They are not designed for permanent use. They are not designed to conduct large amounts of electricity. They are for temporary use only," said Fire Investigator Lt. Ronald Lewis.

Investigators say the fire was probably smoldering for a while before Robinson was awakened from her sleep.

Neighbors say they heard something around 7 a.m., but had no idea a mobile home was on fire.

"We heard something busting, like somebody throwing rocks," said Allen.

Allen discovered the fire at the trailer when she looked out her window.

Improper use of extension cords is one of the most common fire violations found by city fire inspectors.

Since January, 360 violations have been issued to area businesses. The city does not have jurisdiction to inspect homes, but they estimate the cords are being improperly used in thousands of them.

Lewis warns if you do use extension cords, use them safely. Make sure they are not cracked or frayed.

"As it begins to age, it will crack. Rubber will break exposing wires. When you use them, the electricity will flow through, and that's a heat source," said Lewis.

An Electrical Fire Safety booklet is available at Fayetteville City Hall. It has some tips about using electrical cords safely, including this one: never running the cords under carpets or across doorways.

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