New York City Apartment Blaze, Caused by Air Conditioner Cord, Ends in Tragic Death of FDNY Firefighter

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A Brooklyn apartment fire ended in tragedy last week, and it turned out that a damaged electrical cord was to blame.

The apartment, located in Williamsburg, was a cluttered mess, which neighbors described as “overstuffed” and difficult to enter with too many electronics running at once.

The apartment’s owner, Angel Pagan, insisted that his air conditioner was off. Yet neighbors described his apartment as full of powered items: two air conditioners, fans, TVs, a fish tank and a radio.

Pagan said he was out at McDonald’s when the blaze broke out on Saturday, July 5, at 9:30 p.m.

FDNY firefighters determined that the cause for the fire was an air conditioner cord that was pinched between a wall and bed frame.

The fire ended up killing one FDNY firefighter, Lt. Gordon Ambelas, who was overcome by smoke and suffered burns; he later passed at Woodhull Hospital. Ambelas, a 14-year veteran with the fire department, was a 40-year-old father of two.

Pagan’s three Yorkshire terriers also died, likely due to smoke inhalation.

While routine maintenance is important in order to keep an air conditioning unit in good condition, safety is crucial during the hot months, too. In addition to fires, multiple air conditioners and other electronics can overload a circuit, causing a power failure and damage to those items.

In addition to running multiple electronics, Pagan also admitted that he ran extension cords through his apartment. The outlets in his bedroom didn’t work, said Pagan, so he connected his TVs, air conditioners, and other electronics to the extension cord.

The National Fire Protection Agency reports that there were approximately 97,000 apartment fires each year in the United States, leading to an average of hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries each year. The average amount of property damage done to apartment buildings by fires was estimated at $1,192 in 2012.

The New York City Fire Department recommends several safety tips in the event of an apartment fire, namely to know your exits and keep them clear and have an escape plan in the event of an emergency.