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Old 07-14-2020, 06:45 PM
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Franklin Sankar Franklin Sankar is offline
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Studio fire

Anyone came across any data on electric studio fires. Which is more common, electric or gas?
What is the most common cause?
Franklin
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Old 07-14-2020, 06:53 PM
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Pete VanderLaan Pete VanderLaan is offline
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Bad Housekeeping to put it bluntly. Keep your unsupervised tooling at least 18 inches from combustibles. More preferably. Get combustibles away from the active part of the shop.
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Old 07-14-2020, 07:07 PM
Art Freas Art Freas is offline
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No data to back this up but. I have gas for furnace and glory holes, electric for annealers. With gas I worry less about fire more about explosion. With electric it is fire. As an ex-firefighter I agree with Pete, bad housekeeping is a huge factor, followed by stupidity, and then bad construction/electric/gas practices. Keep a clean shop, don't be stupid, and build stuff right and you can rest way easier in a hot shop or anywhere else. Dumbest thing I saw as a firefighter was a house where they took an extension cord, cut it in half spliced in about 20 feet of speaker wire using telephone connectors and routed it under a pile of laundry in a linen closet. Biggest surprise is that it took a month to start a fire.
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Old 07-15-2020, 07:38 AM
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Pete VanderLaan Pete VanderLaan is offline
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I made a point of studying studio fires for several decades as a sidebar to my time in the fire dept actually and pyrolysis was primary again and again. It takes about 20 years to develop at low levels. At high levels, it can happen fast. What you have to remember is that materials don't burn but the gas given off by them warming does.

In the major instances I saw, furnaces, all gas sat in the same places for that period of time. One had a large wooden beam behind it in a mill and one had a beam supporting a concrete slab underneath it, also in a mill. In both cases the wood was not actually directly exposed but was capable of absorbing heat and the furnaces ran just about continuously. Both beams gassed off and ignited once sufficient gas was produced. Both fires were very substantial in the damage they created. Housekeeping in both cases would have limited the damage. It did get me to reconsider the ambient temperatures I considered "Safe" It used to be that I thought 165F was OK, not anymore. Now, 135F is where my attention focuses. Look to lightbulbs near wood. If you see blackened material, your building is talking to you.

If you're just trying to light a fire in a fireplace you have to wonder sometimes how I ever had a job. It can be a major pain to get it lit. The question there is the rate at which the BTU's are generated and what they are trying to kindle. Inevitably, you want the fast release stuff like newspaper to catch some small pieces of a slightly slower rate of release material and then let it light something else, blah blah blah. Stuff like Georgia fatwood releases gas so fast that you can often ignite it with just a match. That should tell you something about where you store your fatwood, or newspapers or birch bark, all great gas producers.

So in the studio, limit the stuff that can catch. I've had two studio fires in fifty years and the first one, in Santa Fe caught some material under the hood where we had been making color rod. The hood was utterly devoid of combustibles and the fire put itself out. The other, I don't know what to say might have happened. I did something foolish as I look back. I had taken the leads from the electric panel and ran them through the hood to get them to the moly control. I insulate my hoods. Both of the lines were in heavy metal conduit and about seven years passed with no issue. Then, one morning I was standing in front of the thing and a major electrical short presented itself in the hood. It did not trip a breaker since the breaker was a 125 AMPs. The arc burned right through the armor and down into the underside of the hood at which point I threw the breaker and the event ended. I do not know what might have gone on had I not been there.

Analyzing it, I pulled the leads from the hood and the insulation on them was completely cracked and falling off from years above the furnace in the heat. Finally, It arced to the armor. In any other application that would have blown the breaker but since the power supply to the moly was really big, it didn't. In repair, feeling like an idiot, I ran the lines a second time but this time over the top of the hood.
Insulation cracks for more than just this reason. Exposure to sunlight will do it as well, chemicals can do it. It's worth examining your tools. When I talk to people about doing maintenance on large electrical furnaces like molys, I tell them to check their connections at least every two months for "cold creep" and that includes the connections in the transformer. Keep them snug. I did have an incident in my transformer where, again the insulation had frayed leading out from the relay to the secondary. It melted an aluminum lug in the transformer and I was fortunate that the metal did not go down in the windings or I would have been coughing up close to three grand for a new transformer.
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Old 07-15-2020, 07:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Freas View Post
Dumbest thing I saw as a firefighter was a house where they took an extension cord, cut it in half spliced in about 20 feet of speaker wire using telephone connectors and routed it under a pile of laundry in a linen closet. Biggest surprise is that it took a month to start a fire.
****
At one time I was quoted in the newspaper saying

"I haven't been to a fire caused by common sense yet."
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Old 07-15-2020, 03:10 PM
Steven O'Day Steven O'Day is offline
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I just replaced a rubber hose to a 20# propane tank. It was about 4 years old but had been outside. It seemed to be ok until it was flexed and then you could hear the gas escaping along multiple cracks.
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Old 07-15-2020, 04:43 PM
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I do not know the cause and origin on Harry Bissett's fire in Vermont two years back. We just never got to talk.
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Old 07-15-2020, 06:10 PM
Art Freas Art Freas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete VanderLaan View Post
****
At one time I was quoted in the newspaper saying

"I haven't been to a fire caused by common sense yet."
Awesome, great quote!
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Old 07-15-2020, 09:32 PM
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Franklin Sankar Franklin Sankar is offline
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Great story Pete. How often do you all change the propane hose?
I would think gas fires are more common. Surprised to hear itís electric.
What caused the electric. What you think about the controller output sticking. If it overheat , the coil melt and open so no electricity flows
Franklin
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