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#103994 - 12/15/02 09:07 AM DANGER!! Electrical Fire Hazards
Joe Tedesco Offline
Member

Registered: 10/07/00
Posts: 3325
Loc: Boston, Massachusetts USA
Please add comments that include first hand experiences with fires of electrical origin.

Please be specific and give the reasons for the fires and how they were determined to be electrical fires.


[This message has been edited by Joe Tedesco (edited 09-06-2003).]
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Joe Tedesco, NEC Consultant

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#103995 - 12/15/02 01:20 PM Re: DANGER!! Electrical Fire Hazards
Joe Tedesco Offline
Member

Registered: 10/07/00
Posts: 3325
Loc: Boston, Massachusetts USA
1998
Residential Fire
Loss Estimates
U.S. National Estimates of Fires,
Deaths, Injuries and Property
Losses from Non-Incendiary,
Non-Suspicious Fires

http://www.cpsc.gov/library/fire98.pdf
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#103996 - 12/15/02 01:51 PM Re: DANGER!! Electrical Fire Hazards
resqcapt19 Offline
Member

Registered: 11/10/00
Posts: 2209
Loc: IL
 Quote:
Residential Fire
Loss Estimates

The key word here is "estimates". Very few residential fires have an investigation that is thorough enough to be sure of the actual cause. In many areas if the point of origin is anywhere near anything electrical, the cause is listed as electrical. I've read a fire cause report where the cause was listed as electrical, but the service conductors had been cut at the pole prior to the fire.
There is at least one fire cause and origin textbook that teaches that if there are balls of copper on the wires that there was a short circuit and that was the cause of the fire. The only problem with that is the same balls of copper will exist where the fire had another cause and the fire destroyed the insulation causing the short circuit. This textbook error causes many fires to be listed as electrical origin when they really were caused by something else.
Don
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#103997 - 12/16/02 08:43 AM Re: DANGER!! Electrical Fire Hazards
fireftr Offline
Member

Registered: 01/16/02
Posts: 17
Loc: Bucyrus Ohio Usa
As an electrician and call firefighter in my city I have witnessed first hand many fires listed as an electrical cause when the electricity did not cause it. IE, window ac units plugged into a 16 ga 100 ft cord and run across the room, cord overheats, catches carpet on fire and the cause is listed as electrical. Oversized fuses put into what should be a 15A circuit, zip cord used as permanent wiring, old FPE panels that don't trip on overload conditions or short circuits. One of my favorites is 2 150 watt bulbs in a ceiling fixture, rated for 60 watt bulb, they overheat and set the wood ceiling on fire, fire listed as electrical!
I have seen a few that were electrical. I had one run when the panelboard main breaker failed and the fire spread up and out from the box. There are 4 houses on a xmfr so it was quite some time until the cutout on the pole opened to stop the arcing. I also have seen outlets like the one pictured above spread fire into the wall and up from there.

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#103998 - 01/17/03 10:28 AM Re: DANGER!! Electrical Fire Hazards
John Steinke Offline
Member

Registered: 04/03/01
Posts: 509
Loc: Reno,Nv., USA
I haven't seen a fire that was clearly caused by electrical practices. (POCO transformers are another issue altogether).
I HAVE seen fires that resulted from damage to electrical components, appliances used incorrectly, and electrical components damaged by fires.
I have seen many times where a fault in the electrical installation has resulted in arcing, charred insulation, etc., but there was no ignition of other materials.
I have also seen "electrical" used as the 'default' cause of otherwise unexplained fires.
I can't claim either to have seen everything, or that my experience is typical. I do suspect that there are very few fires caused by anything that the electrician had any control over.

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#103999 - 02/18/03 07:28 AM Re: DANGER!! Electrical Fire Hazards
Texas_Ranger Offline
Member

Registered: 12/17/01
Posts: 2343
Loc: Vienna, Austria
Hmmm. Some flooring guys tried to burn down our house when using twisted & taped extension cords, back when our attic was finished. Around 9pm we suddenly saw blue lights flashing in front of our window, so we quickly looked out only to find 5(!) fire trucks blocking our alley. Firefighters were standing around doing nothing. We asked what happened and were told: oh, some maniac wanted to see the fire department, there's no fire. Only when they started working with a chainsaw one floor above us we realized that it must have been more than a maniac. Finally we got the entire story: The lady who lives above us and below the attic had informed my uncle (to whom the appartment building belongs and who had the work done), and he had extinguished the fire with 2 buckets of water. When the FD arrived the fire was already out, hence the chaos. Damage was rather limited, only some floor boards in the attic, the wire to the light fixture below and some plaster damaged by the repairing electrician, plus paint damage due to the water. Since that incident i don't really trust the Vienna Fire Department any more.

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#104000 - 02/18/03 02:01 PM Re: DANGER!! Electrical Fire Hazards
energy7 Offline
Member

Registered: 06/10/02
Posts: 58
Loc: Oxnard, CA, USA
As a bldg. dept. inspector, I've been called out on many fire calls. THe majority were electrical in origin.
First ever was an industrial site: landscaping fire due to a vaporized dead front and cover. One of the aluminum phase conductors from meter socket to Main finally got corroded enough at the Main lug to go to plasma.
Others:
Zip cord to 100' orange 16/3 to power tools at a shade tree auto repair. zip cord lit the furniture in front of it.
Computer repair in a bootleg room addition: overcurrent in romex and ext. cords supplying plugs, lights, multiple computers, ...(the family in front was saved by the smoke detector that had a new battery!!!!).
Glowing meter/panel at a 1915 house w/ 120v, (15A or 30A-I don't remember, a GEC that had corroded through at the ground rod. As the residents added kitchen appliances and other modern stuff, they finally overloaded the panel, but with no ground the OCP didn't go.

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#104001 - 02/18/03 03:40 PM Re: DANGER!! Electrical Fire Hazards
John Steinke Offline
Member

Registered: 04/03/01
Posts: 509
Loc: Reno,Nv., USA
I have been associated with only one fire that was blamed upon "electrical" causes. I know for a fact that the fire was actually caused by a kerosene space heater; the heater was re-located prior to the fire inspection to a lesser-burnt area, so as to avoid liability/blame. Noting no abvious cause in the most-burnt area, the inspection concluded "electrical," as the cause could not be ascertained!

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#104002 - 09/13/03 12:30 PM Re: DANGER!! Electrical Fire Hazards
codeenforcementguy Offline
Member

Registered: 08/27/03
Posts: 30
Loc: Yuma, Arizona USA
As I former fire inspector/fire investigator I was taught that there are only three causes of fire ... Men, Women & children. Careless smoking gets the most blame .. Faulty electrical is the next most abused. I have found the smoking (cigarette) gun in a few cases, and behind almost every electrical fire incident that I can recall there was a shortcut or a handyman involved somewhere in between. Exception to the rule would be certain manufacturer's of residential exhaust fans which seemed to be seizing and overheating at a greater than average frequency. I was privileged to investigate on fire in aluminum wiring in an old mobile home .. The owner didn't trust his natural gas heating unit so plugged in two space heaters into one receptacle.. I believe the heaters were 1950 watts each .. the breaker popped so the grandson replaced same with larger until they held at the 50 amp level. The electrical contractor I was with found the problem .. one leg of the aluminum wiring had separated and broke the circuit to a bedroom, and a full sized addition on the home. The outlet receptacle had melted into the two plugs of the heating units. Using a wire and jumping between one side of an outlet on each side of the point of origin brought the system back up during a test ... we found that the entire addition to the mobile home was run with extension cording off of one of the bedroom outlets. Want to bet there wasn't a permit or inspections for the mobilehome addition?


ERFERTT

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#104003 - 09/14/03 07:54 AM Re: DANGER!! Electrical Fire Hazards
codeenforcementguy Offline
Member

Registered: 08/27/03
Posts: 30
Loc: Yuma, Arizona USA
Had a complaint from an electrical contractor that might fit into your hazards category. The contractor was doing some upgrade at a former convenience market and tried to use an exterior 110v receptacle that had been used for an ice storage box. The first drill the contractor burned up he wrote off to old equipment, the second he suspected a fault in the wiring. The receptacle tested at 220v and further inspection found that the retailer had wired it when he provided the cold boxes for his product. This building had ceased to be a market several years prior, was several business offices, and finally a used car lot, and apparently no one had used the receptacle since the cold boxes were removed. Good example of why you should verify your source before you connect and could have been a severe hazard to an unsuspecting participant.

ERFERTT

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