Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Archive: Fires & Explosions

Congratulations Tom Kelly on CESCP Certification!

Congratulations to Tom Kelly for completing his Certified Electrical Safety Compliance Professional designation. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) program, CESCP, is designed to meet the needs of electrical and safety professionals who oversee electrical safety programs or who manage electricians and other personnel exposed to electrical hazards.

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Improper Hearth Extension Leads to Structure Fire

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The fire service affords you the opportunity to witness and observe things that a lot of engineers and even most people do not get the chance to see.  An example of this is the situation where extended elevated temperatures combined with poor construction techniques to result in a structure fire.

I have personally observed several occasions where a structure fire was initiated due to improper construction of the fireplace hearth extension.  The most recent one followed a multi-day cold snap, at least by South Carolina standards.  The thermometer read 17 degrees F as I drove to the call of smoke in a residence Read More

Proper Construction and Maintenance Can Prevent Deadly Chimney Fires

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There are few things as comforting to me during the winter months as a warm fire burning in the fireplace.  And in this case, I am talking the real deal, the kind that warms you multiple times; from cutting, splitting and stacking the firewood until finally lighting a fire in the fireplace.  However, just like your parents taught you, fire can be dangerous.  And having an actual fire in your home fireplace comes with some required maintenance to ensure you can safely control the fire and keep it where it belongs. Read More

Stress Corrosion Cracking of Stainless Steel in Marine Environments

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Stress corrosion cracking involves the slow growth of small, often microscopic, cracks through a metal part in a corrosive environment.  The cracking can continue to the point that the part fails suddenly and unexpectedly even though it still appears new and in good condition.

My first experience with stress corrosion cracking happened in the Charleston harbor when the stainless steel rudder suddenly separated from a sailboat during moderate winds. What had been a pleasant evening sail turned instantly into being in a difficult to control boat in the middle of the busy shipping channel. The rudder remained attached only Read More

Residential Structure Fires

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The winter season is well underway in the United States, with the Christmas and New Years holidays behind us and the depths of cold weather here for the duration.  With winter, many people spend more hours indoors as compared to the summer when outdoor activities ramp up.  With more time spent indoors, it is somewhat intuitive that the use of electricity would increase as well.

Electricity is one of the most influential utilities in our daily life.  Much of what modern societies rely on to get through a normal day requires electricity.  Have you ever been in a slight panic looking for an electric outlet when your cell phone is below 10% charge?  Or how many times do we all attempt to turn on a light switch when we enter a room during a known power outage from sheer habit?  Even our personal transportation which has relied on gasoline for roughly 100 years is shifting toward electric automobiles. Read More

Heating System Losses, Part One

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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

Staying Connected on the Loop: Two by Two’s Mobile Internet Setup

After completing the sit-stand workstation in the guest stateroom of our 47’ Nova Scotia pilothouse trawler, Two by Two, that I reported in a previous blog, I found I needed an internet connection with reasonable speed and reliability.  While almost every marina will give you a password for their WiFi, the quality of most marina connections is unreliable and too slow to effectively work as a forensic engineering consultant. When I tried to download a simple photograph through any type of remote connection to the Irmo, SC office, I could go make a cup of coffee and come back before the download finished.  To upload a group of photographs Read More

P&ID’s, If You Please – Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams Explained

When investigating an industrial incident, one piece of information I always ask for is the relevant P&ID’s for the process.  P&ID stands for Piping and Instrumentation Diagram and is defined as “A schematic diagram of the relationship between instruments, controllers, piping, and system equipment.” A set of P&ID’s for an entire facility allows you to trace the entire manufacturing process from raw material unloading to finished product loadout, including utilities like steam, water, fuel, and air. That’s great information to have, but isn’t especially useful Read More

The Paths of Chemical Exposure

The Safety Hierarchy states that hazards should be mitigated first by engineering controls, secondly by guarding, and lastly by warning/training.  When the first two, engineering controls and guards, fail in a manufacturing setting, a chemical release could occur. A forensic chemical engineer can help determine the root cause of that failure. Read More

Don’t Get Burned With Your Gas Grill!

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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

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