NYC fire officials: Wire likely caused fatal fire

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Associated Press

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 6 at 5:37 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Fire officials say a faulty electrical wire caused a blaze in a Manhattan high-rise apartment building that killed a young New York playwright and seriously injured his husband.

Daniel McClung, 27, died and Michael Todd Cohen, 32, was badly hurt Sunday when they were overcome by smoke in a stairwell after flames swept through an apartment 18 floors below theirs in the building where they lived, Fire Department operations Chief James Esposito said Monday.

Cohen is in stable condition at a New York hospital. The couple married in July.

They lived on the 38th floor of the 42-story building. Firefighters found them in a stairwell near the 31st floor, Esposito said.

"If they had just stayed put, they would have been OK," Esposito said. "It's not the fire in these fireproof multiple dwellings that will kill you, it's the smoke that will kill you."

He emphasized that people in modern fire-proof high-rise buildings should not use elevators or "self-evacuate." Instead, he advised residents of the buildings, which are designed to prevent the spread of fire between floors, to contact their lobby and wait for firefighters to rescue them.

"If you are on a floor above a fire, you stay put," Esposito said, adding that anyone in an apartment that's on fire should get out and close the door behind them so the smoke and flames are less likely to spread.

Seven other residents and some firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Esposito said that fire investigators believe the cause of the blaze was an extension cord with multiple outlets being used in a 20th-floor apartment. He said flames spread to the floor above after the apartment door failed to automatically close, a safety measure he said is standard in modern buildings.

"And when firefighters arrived on the floor, we had a very smoky floor, we had a considerable heat condition on that floor," he said. "The fire received all the necessary oxygen it needed and it developed into a free-burning fire; it broke the windows on the exterior of the building."

McClung worked for Manhattan's Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre and AliveWire Theatrics, according to an online bio.

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