Was home a fire waiting to happen?

Philip Anselmo

As investigators continue to search for the cause of an Aug. 27 blaze that engulfed a Shortsville house, one of the evacuated residents, Gordon Hall, said that he already knows how it began because it nearly happened twice before.

The Hall family first called the Shortsville Fire Department on Aug. 16 after they smelled something burning and found sparks spitting out of an electrical panel in the home at 52 W. Main St.

Shortsville Code Enforcement Officer Steven DeHond was called to the scene and, as required by law, shut off all electricity to the home until the panel could be repaired.

"I ordered to have an electrical inspector come in," said DeHond. "And the lead wire coming into the panel was replaced."

DeHond said he notified the homeowner, Robert Glover, from the scene.

Then, less than a week later, DeHond was called to the home again.

"The second time, we were called in for the same thing — smell in the same panel box area, in the same one that was repaired," he said.

A repairman was again brought in, the panel was fixed and re-inspected and the owner was notified, according to DeHond. But Lou Aaron, the electrical inspector who was called to the scene for the problem on Aug. 16, said that he never returned to the home a second time.

Hall said that the panel was never inspected a second time because the repairman never had a chance to finish the job. His landlord hired a part-time electrician who was only able to work a few hours a day, and the power was never shut off. That oversight resulted in the fire that gutted the house, said Hall.

"My experience is that you shut off the power to the house no matter how small the electrical problem," said Hall, adding that he has been a firefighter since 1985.

Glover denies any irresponsibility.

"When this is all said and done, you'll get the true picture," said Glover. "There's no reason for me to comment."

Ontario County Fire Investigator Jeff Harloff said that he cannot yet say whether the fire was caused by the faulty electrical panel.

"The short answer is the investigation continues," said Harloff. "We're ruling out systems, electrical and otherwise. It's a slow and methodical process. (The panel) is one of the things that we're looking at as well as many other factors and conditions."

Philip Anselmo can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 322, or at panselmo@mpnewspapers.com.