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Laptop blamed in New Kensington fire

| Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 1:27 a.m.

Tuesday night's basement fire in a New Kensington house was caused by an overheated laptop computer battery, a deputy state fire marshal said.

The resulting fire damaged 201 Pershing Ave. and sent one homeowner to the hospital to be examined.

State Trooper Jake Andolina, a fire marshal based in Greensburg, said he has filed a report with the U.S. Product Safety Commission, which keeps track of such fires.

According to the commission, in 2012 there were 20 fires or people burned by laptop batteries nationwide.

In 2006, four computer brands issued recalls for their laptops because of overheating. They had the potential of causing burns, a fire or even an explosion.

Last week, an Oregon newspaper reported that a fire started when a laptop battery malfunctioned and fell from the device onto the floor, where it caught clothing, bedding and, ultimately, the mattress on fire. No one was injured.

β€œI haven't seen many of these, but I read about them,” Andolina said.

β€œIt was the first one I've seen, but I'm told there are videos on YouTube,” added New Kensington Assistant Fire Chief Ed Saliba Jr.

Fire officials said Tuesday's fire started in Christmas decorations in a basket on a table next to where the laptop was sitting.

Resident Thomas McCarthy, 62, took the flaming basket into a basement shower to extinguish it. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital.

No information on his condition was available on Thursday.

Saliba estimated the fire caused at least $20,000 of damage.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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