The homeowner was taking a bath in her newly installed hydromassage tub (without a permit). The power went out in the tub so she went down to the panel to see if a breaker tripped. Because the circuit wasn't labeled she started randomly turning breakers on and off. When this got her nowhere she turn the main off then on. Immediately she heard a buzzing then sparks and fire started.
The other interesting thing that I did not get pictures of was the tree that was burnt where the service drop passed through it.
With the mess inside the panel, my best guess is that the Main breaker malfunctioned. Seeing how the breaker blew apart and the molten metal right on the breaker I have to believe it was the breaker. Even with all the other violations in the panel. I am hoping that what happened is the GFCI under the tub tripped, killing power to the unit, and saved the life of the homeowner. I have not investigated the site personally, I only have my fire department's report. I asked if I could be brought in for further investigation in an obvious electrical fire event. After the fire is out of course.
Re: Fire in Panelboard#103229 08/29/0210:57 PM08/29/0210:57 PM
This looks like a scenario our company avoided a few years ago, lucky us!
Addition to house, bed/office, and bathroom. Bathroom had all the little extras though, 2 heater/fan goodies, a couple of towel dryers, some nice big strip lights, a couple of cans all over the place, and the new central exhaust fan system for the skylight areas and close to the showers, we remodeled the other baths for some better venting.
OOOOOOPSIE, I forgot the laundry was added in the niche nearby, just a 20A 120V circuit.
House had an existing sub in before we arrived,main breaker a 150A, sub fed with a 100A. It did not appear that the panels were overloaded. They were about 20 years old. We had space in the sub to get our wires landed, AHJ was told to take a peek and see if he felt a full service upgrade was necessary to one new 200A service to avoid all doubt.
Well its about 5:30 when I show up with the last couple of light bulbs to finish, turn all the new goodies on for testing, all devices test fine, get back to the panel area and it starts to have a funny sort of plastic odor building up. Then we hear a little arc type noise from the main panel, hit the main breaker, pop the cover off both panels,take a look with a flashlight, can't quite tell where the meltdown is occuring. So, back on goes the main, a few seconds later we see smoke and a red glow happening under the main breaker, the meltdown is moving right through the bottom of main, all plastic in the area right for the back of the panel enclosure, the main has been off at this point again for a little bit, and it is still glowing quite well.
Now I have to do a beeline to the UG meter socket, not a disconnecting one either, basement back area of house, out the front door to the back corner of the house knowing this thing is still melting down until the meter is yanked. Hope she don't blow! Made it time to avoid iminent failure in a big way.
Anyone for a service swap at 6:30pm on a friday night?????????? Well the homeowner got a new 200A service installed by 1:00am.
So, all of that wind I used is to say that the main was in sad shape from the years of use, it didn't fail by just not holding, it decided to meltdown, and was going to take the panel and anything else in its path until the meter blew, or the TX.
We took amp readings to see if we could detect an issue of the first original panel and sub, all was within the breaker ratings.
And yes they had a spare Pampers for me!
Re: Fire in Panelboard#103230 10/02/0207:17 AM10/02/0207:17 AM
It almost seems to me that something was turned off before the homeowner went down to attempt to get her tub back on... Was there a circuit in the panel that went to something that wasnt there anymore, & someone didn't cap the lines off, or capped them together? Something similar , but not of this magnitude, happened at a neighbors down the street... He tripped a circuit in his Pushmatic panel.. He went to the panel to restore & most of us here know that the on/off indicator on these breakers is useless.. So, he started pushing breakers all over... One that he reset was a 50A 2P that went to a former spa, the wires were all taped together.... about 5 minutes later, he called me after he'd called the fire dept.. His busbars were glowing & smoke coming from the panel... In this case, the main (100A) & the 50A failed to trip. Luckily, the fire dept cut the drip loops while the house was still standing!
Re: Fire in Panelboard#103234 05/18/0405:05 PM05/18/0405:05 PM
Doug, This was quite a few years ago, (probably around 10), so I have no idea if this has changed or not as far as their policy... One thing I do remember, they had a pair of, what looked like bolt-cutters, with fiberglass handles about 5' long! snip-spark, snip-spark, snip... that was it!