Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fire causes

The beginnings of a fire
This series of articles is intended for use by fire investigators and other professionals to show exactly how a fire starts and what conditions were like exactly right before the fire started to be better at understanding what you are looking at after a fire has consumed electrical items and understand exactly how the electrical fire may have started.

By Nick Markowitz Jr.
Fire Investigator

I have this favorite little Italian Lunch place down in an industrial plant area I work in the Ohio Valley
I went in for the Rigatoni and small bowl of wedding Soup when I was told the soup was only warm they were having trouble with the unit constantly blowing the breaker on the plug strip it was plugged into.
The Owner who has since become my friend knew I was an Electrician and asked me if I would check it out for him after I had my lunch.
So when I finished I went out to my truck and got my tools and started checking out the circuit. I went to pull out the cord on the plug strip so I could check it when I burned my hand because it was so hot.
Here my friend had plugged 2 refrigerated units plus the soup warmer into a plug strip which was then plugged into a 2 pronged outlet with a 3 to 2 adapter I found all the items starting to melt down and ready to catch fire because my friend had obviously overloaded
The outlet and the loose connector caused by the ill-fitting adapter helped start the problems. I replaced the outlet and with a three pronged heavy duty outlet and put in a new plug strip and advised my friend to get his regular electrician to run an additional circuit out to the counter before he was burning the place down. My friend did not seem to under stand why he had to do this as he had everything working like that for some time with no problems but as I explained to him that (A) with as hot as it has been this summer his refrigeration equipment has to work harder drawing more power (b) all the low voltage coming in was creating problems being caused by the heat that a problem that was going to happen even if temperatures were normal had happened sooner .He was going to have a problem again if he did not get the load on the circuit down to 80% of the full load rating of the 20 amp breaker. Other wise the constant running at such high amp draw will once again cause a problem and maybe he will not be so lucky and have a fire next time.
Hopefully he will take my advice and the next time I am working in that part of town the place will still be standing.

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