A stressed outlet in the upstairs office of Lucy Alva's house started a fire over the weekend, Pendleton Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Tyler Nokes said Tuesday.

Firefighters responded to the blaze on the 600 block of Southeast Third Street at 11 p.m. Saturday, fighting it until after midnight. Nokes and Deputy State Fire Marshal Scott Goff investigated the scene on Monday morning.

Nokes said they traced the start to a bedroom in the upstairs apartment which was being used as an office and music studio.

"An outlet in the south wall failed,"?he said. "It ignited the surrounding structural members."

He said a computer with a surge protector was plugged into the outlet. He said if an outlet is old or worn, and the plug doesn't quite fit or stay in, that loose fitting can causes the plug to warm up. Over time the heat dries things out around the outlet, Nokes said, making it easier to catch fire.

Most of the damage was contained to the upstairs office, Nokes said, though some fire got downstairs to the living room below through the walls. He said the house is built with the wall studs extending all the way from the basement to the roof. The space between the studs provides a way for fire to travel, which it did, in the south wall of the house.

Newer houses have breaks in the walls between floors to keep fire from traveling that route.

There's also some water damage downstairs.

Nokes said the house is still habitable.

"They can certainly rebuild,"?he said. "This is not a tear-down situation. It's a patch the holes and repaint situation."

This is the third fire the Pendleton department had on record at this house. One happened in July last year - "same room, different wall," Nokes said - and another one was sometime in the past, the records didn't say when. While both Saturday's fire and the one nearly a year ago were both electrical, Nokes said he didn't know the cause of the third one.

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