Generator probed in fire that destroyed home

More than 100 firefighters responded to a 2:15 a.m. fire on Oak Avenue in Hempstead that may have been caused by a malfunctioning generator. Videojournalist: Paul Mazza (Nov. 10, 2012)

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A malfunctioning generator may have caused the fire that roared through a Hempstead home early Saturday morning, Hempstead Fire Department Chief Scott Clark said.

More than 100 firefighters responded to a 2:15 a.m. fire at on Oak Avenue to find heavy smoke and flames coming out of the home's windows and front door -- and several containers of gasoline next to a generator placed against the house's rear wall.

Fire had reached the cans, but the gas had not ignited. Firefighters simply moved the cans away from the house and attacked the fire, Clark said.

"We're looking for things a little more out of the ordinary, especially with what we've seen since the storm," he said.

A woman and her teenage son who were staying in the house had evacuated earlier, awakened by a dog, he said.

The home, Clark said, "was completely destroyed."

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During a 40-minute battle to control the fire, he said, a Hempstead firefighter fell seven and a half feet when the home's staircase collapsed. He was taken to Nassau University Medical Center but returned to fight the fire.

Clark said the cause of the fire was under investigation by the Nassau County fire marshal's office, which he said was considering a generator malfunction as a possible cause of the fire. That office could not be reached Saturday morning.

As a rule, Clark said, generators should be operated at a distance from a home, because poisonous fumes can blow back into inside.

Since Sandy hit the region on Oct. 29, he said, his department has responded to roughly 250 calls, many concerning possible carbon-monoxide poisoning, gas or unknown odors.

"Most of these are attributable to the storm," he said.

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