When fall and winter arrive and temperatures drop, it is a great comfort to have a heating system to warm your home or office. Several categories of heating equipment exist to provide both primary and secondary heating. Primary heating systems include fuel gas/fuel oil/electric forced air furnaces, heat pumps, hydronic heating/steam systems and even wood-fired heating systems. Secondary heating equipment includes electric, gas and kerosene space heaters of both fixed and portable design, and fireplaces. Each of the different types of heating systems have unique hazards that, uncontrolled, can result in fires, explosions, burn injuries, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Read More
If there is one thing Americans can agree upon, it is the enjoyment that comes from an outdoor barbeque. Whether a summertime cookout or a fall BBQ to watch a football game, we all love the fun and fellowship that comes from sharing a meal that was prepared outdoors on a grill or smoker. In fact, 64% of Americans own a grill or smoker. The great majority of these are LP fueled gas grills with comparatively few natural gas fired grills. These products can be enjoyed safely when designed, installed, and used in a proper manner. However, given the grill’s use of flammable fuel gas and high temperatures, the potential exists for things to go wrong and result in burn injuries or uncontained fires that spread to the surroundings. Read More
Lighting systems in buildings and other structures have undergone changes over the years. Many of these changes have occurred as manufacturers have developed more efficient lighting methods. Lighting loads can represent the largest category of electrical load in many buildings, thus improved lighting efficiency may significantly lower your power bill and can lengthen time between lamp changes. Read More
As the holiday season nears, thoughts turn to wonderful home-cooked meals with family. Few things in life are more pleasurable than a traditional holiday turkey feast. Yet for an unfortunate few, holiday meal time can turn tragic if a turkey frying accident occurs. While fried turkeys may be tasty, many fire safety experts feel that the reward is not worth the risk. Read More
Equipment and appliances supplied with fuel gases like natural gas, propane and butane are a common and convenient part of most of our lives. Such devices as gas grills and ranges, ovens, furnaces, space heaters and water heaters usually perform without incident. However, when they malfunction the potential for incidents such as fires and explosions, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and burn injuries may occur. These incidents may be due to design and manufacturing defects in the product, or improper installation or operation of the device.
Over the course of its 25-year history, NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations has changed the practice of fire investigation for the better. Without a doubt, NFPA 921 has appropriately driven a more rigorous approach to fire investigation that seeks to avoid cognitive bias and reliance on techniques that, when rigorously examined, are little more than pseudoscience. One need look no further than the Cameron Todd Willingham matter, wherein a Texas man was executed in part based on a flawed fire investigation, to understand the importance of conducting a proper fire investigation. Read More
As the weather turns cold, many people use fireplaces to provide supplemental heat. The warmth from a fireplace is a comfort and the aesthetics of a glowing fire are a pleasure. However, there is nothing pleasurable about a residential house fire that results from an improperly built or used fireplace or chimney. Read More
When fires occur, the effect on people’s lives is often devastating. This is especially true with fires that cause the death of a child. Clearly it is important to try and find the causes of such fires so that they can be prevented in the future. In such circumstances, it is especially important to follow a rigorous methodology in investigating the origin and cause of a fire. Investigators following a less than rigorous methodology may reach improper conclusions. Such was the case in a devastating fire investigated by Warren that was improperly alleged to have been caused by a supposedly defective product, a small electric space heater.
Industrial ovens and furnaces are used in many manufacturing processes. One use of industrial ovens is for drying and curing coatings on fabrics.
I investigated a fire loss involving a very large oven, 10 stories high, used for curing coatings on an industrial fabric. A young firefighter was burned in response to this fire, one of a string of many fires that had occurred involving the oven.
Prior to becoming a forensic engineer, I spent many years in industry designing fuel gas fired equipment. This included designing gas grills, commercial cooking appliances, and large industrial systems. I learned a lot about the safe use of natural gas and propane. Once I entered the forensic engineering field, that experience helped me in evaluating fires involving natural gas and propane equipment and piping systems. One such area that I have found particularly interesting are fires involving Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST).
CSST is a material used to plumb fuel gas inside structures. It is used as an alternative to traditional black steel pipe or copper tubing. The stainless steel tube of CSST, in certain circumstances, will perforate when subjected to electrical arcing, including that due to local lightning strikes. The escaping fuel gas from these perforations has obvious implications as to causing fires. Read More