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Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 794
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wa2ise Offline OP
"Describing what happened in the moments before the fire erupted, Dean said Helen G. was asleep on a couch around 10 a.m. at her home at 344 N.W. 41st St., when she smelled smoke. She opened the closet door and saw the smoldering foam mattress, which had come into contact with a light bulb."

Though they don't say explicitly, I'd guess it was a bare light bulb in one of those porcelain pull chain switch lamp holders. That someone forgot to turn off. This fire cost 5 lives.

Seattle Times story here

Joined: Jan 2005
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Cat Servant
And your point is .....?

Sure, we can play 'what if ...' until the cows come home. We also have to examine our assumptions.

Can we assume that it was an exposed lamp, and not an over-lamped one? Or that the foam had a mattress-appropriate higher ignition temperature?

Oddly enough, the NEC ASSUMES that enclosed fixtures are too cool to ignite stuff. The ONLY fixtures that are evaluated with regards to ignition temperatures are the illuminated closet rods (something I am happy to take credit for- it was my proposal that got the ball rolling there).

I've placed my mattress in most every possible place, but I've never thought to put it on the ceiling. You can't fix stupid.

Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 939

Maybe so but the moot point is we have too many unknowen answer with the situation and I did read the link what the OP mention and also it did mention pumper failure so that part of the details.

But if this house was set up for rental they { inspectors } should check to make sure it is up to the code for safety issue and I can understand some metros { cities } may not have enough fund to do this kind of task.

So it kinda wide open question to this situation.


Pas de problme,il marche n'est-ce pas?"(No problem, it works doesn't it?)

Joined: Apr 2002
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Another factor is the 'age' of the structure. Open bulb, incandescent fixtures (like porcelains) are still in an awful lot of 'closets' around here. Offhand I don't know when 'closed' fixtures were added.

As to CCO inspections, I will inquire to the CCO inspector, and the Uniform Fire Dept Insp., if either of them check 'closet lights'...which I doubt.

The NEC is not retroactive, nor is every electrical installation/modification permitte and inspected.

That all said this situation was still a tragic loss of lives.

Joined: Jan 2005
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Cat Servant
While I do not rejoice at the suffering of others -and the suffering of innocents has filled reams of theological discourse- I worry about the way some folks will hijack an emotional cause to further their agenda. Good intentions? We know where that road leads ...

The statist will use such a tragedy to argue for inspections, construction mandates (detectors, sprinklers, etc.), and bureaucratic expansion. What's next? A waiting period and license for light bulbs?

We've all seen remarkable examples of gross stupidity; stuff in the closet piled to the ceiling is but one example. If we're completely honest, we've all probably done some really dumb things at some time.

I've recently become aware of the details of the 'shake and bake' method used to refine some drugs. You want to talk about making bad choices? Filling a gas can while holding a lit sparkler in the other hand is far safer. Yet, folks do this, often while driving, for pete's sake. Kind of makes the exposed light bulb pale to insignificance as a safety risk.

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 7,333
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As with 'common sense', 'stupidity' levels are not within the definitions of the NEC.

Yes, tragedies sometimes are the 'creators' of additional rules, regulations, codes and laws.....but remember this was a tragic loss of five lives. Retrospect of the cause, and any underlying factors, the end result is still five lives lost.

No, I do not forsee a 'line in the closet' law/code for the storage areas, nor do I see an inspection of same. Not saying that some bureaucrat may have that thought, but it will be non-enforceable, as are any conditions that change after an inspection.

Let's attempt to leave this as a tragic accident, and perhaps in our everyday contact with people, mention that the exposed (bare) bulb in the closet can become a real hazard and consider addressing it!

Last edited by HotLine1; 06/23/10 12:21 PM. Reason: grammar & speeling due to bad eyesight

Joined: Jul 2002
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John (Hotline),
This is indeed a tragedy, 5 lives lost for a very simple source of ignition.
Personally, it makes me wonder why bulbs in closets are not required to have a protecting cage around them?
Attached to structural timbers, not a part of the light fitting itself.
Mattresses are one of the nastiest things that you can ever have go on fire, inherently, they will smoulder for a number of hours and then burst into flames all of a sudden.
I as a Fire-fighter, know this fact intimately.

Joined: Jan 2005
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Cat Servant
While our code requirements for protected bulbs in clothes closets are fairly recent, the requirements for clearance between the bulb and flammables have been around pretty much forever.

Last edited by HotLine1; 06/23/10 08:22 PM. Reason: deleted inflamatory comments (Hotline1)
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 1,803
The most difficult thing when encountering a fire in your home is to keep calm, don't panic and to take logical steps to minimise harm. The lady, through lack of knowledge or in her alarm did all the wrong things with tragic results. Mainly, she fed the ignited item with a flow of air & opened windows and doors. Education is the answer, not shrugging off someone else's misfortune as 'hard luck pal, I'm OK' from a bubble of selfishness.
We recently had a chimney fire in a stainless flue from a closed woodburner, caused by my failure to screw back the 3/4" condense drain plug. [I'd thus supplied it with air]. Denise and I both fired 2 pound powder fire extinguishers up the hole and it finally went out. Phew! Were my legs shaking after, this is not recommended exercise for pensioners! The 8" pipe is now blue for 6 feet above the roof exit plate, [ this happened at night and the stack was glowing red!], the roof timber's fire packing worked and our boiler room is full of green dust, but luckily, that's all.

My question is, why put a light in a closet anyway?

Wood work but can't!
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 763
Do mattress manufacturers actually test for this type of ignition source? Iím sure they must do "Open flame" ignition tests, but Iím not sure that would fit the same criteria.

I put my thermocouple thermometer probe on a standard A-19 100-watt bulb in my keyless basement light that had been on for over an hour and the maximum temp I recorded was near the base of the bulb, which was 245.4 degrees F.
It would be interesting to how much time it would take for the foam material to reach the temperature needed to begin combustion.

Even so, I canít help wondering... if a CFL had been installed instead of an incandescent bulb, would this situation still have occurred?

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