The fire that left a Uniondale family of six homeless was caused by an extension cord plugged into another that was then plugged into a wall - a combination authorities say is an all-too-common incendiary.
Vincent McManus, division supervisor of the Nassau County fire marshal's office, said the fire, which took at least seven fire departments and a half-hour to extinguish, started where the two extension cords connected.
Two members of the displaced family - a child and an elderly male relative who doesn't speak English - were rescued midmorning from the Southern Parkway house when a passerby named Rohan Wray, 40, raced inside before firefighters arrived.
What caused the badly burned cord to ignite may never be known, but it could have been damaged after being stepped on, walked on, having furniture placed under or dragged over it or being bent at a sharp angle, for example, McManus said.
He said extension cords should be used only as a temporary measure. Leaving them plugged into outlets permanently - even if a device isn't turned on - creates the kind of fire hazard that caused Monday's fast-moving blaze, he added.
"It's a fair amount of the accidental fire causes that we see," said McManus, interviewed Tuesday. "The longer that that cord is in place, the more subject that is to physical damage because it's not permanent wiring."
In Monday's blaze, a 911 call came in at 11 a.m. The first unit was on the scene two minutes later, and the first fire engine was there by 11:05 a.m., he said.
Meanwhile, the affected family - three adults and three children - are staying at a residence paid for by their insurance company, said the Nassau County Red Cross chapter spokesman, Sam Kille, whose organization gave the family a $780 debit-style cash card and Mickey Mouse stuffed animals for the children.