Deep Fryer Fires due to Lack of Maintenance

We recently investigated the cause of a deep fryer fire in a restaurant setting.  As you probably know, these appliances are everywhere, not just in commercial food establishments, but in homes as well.  They have been in use for a number of years and are tried and tested dependable pieces of equipment.  However, there is just one problem which seems to be constantly ignored by owners.  That is, a thorough cleaning!  It’s one thing to clean the surfaces that are easily reachable and say that the fryer is clean.  It’s quite another to clean the areas where grease accumulates and is ignored because these areas are hard to get into.  I’m talking about the places around the burners and controls.  I’m talking about the area where the gas line comes in and the connections are made.  Many people are afraid to get into the cabinet where the guts of the fryer (and stoves and grilles) are located.  And if you don’t know what you are doing, you’re probably better off leaving the cleaning to a professional.  That doesn’t mean that the cleaning should be put off until absolutely necessary, or as in this case, after a fire occurs.  Deep frying food causes cooking oil to splatter onto exterior surfaces.  Whether onto an exhaust hood or other appliances, the residue that accumulates becomes fuel for a potential fire.  In the recent case mentioned above, greasy residue was allowed to accumulate on the rear side of the fryer as well as the exhaust hood wall.  Greasy residue also accumulated inside the fryer’s exhaust duct enclosure and this was where the fire originated.  The fire started here because the heat from the exhaust was insulated by the greasy residue, raising the temperature of the exhaust gases to the ignition temperature of the residue.  As a reference, cooking oil ignites between 750 F and 800 F depending on the oil.  If the fire hadn’t been contained as quickly as it was, the fire would have eventually reached those grease laden areas behind the fryer and inside the control and burner area.  The fire would also have spread to the stove and grille which were also under the same exhaust hood as the fryer and in need of the same type of cleaning.  If you have to set aside a day to clean inside your cooking appliances – Do It! I promise you that the time and money you spend doing a little maintenance will be significantly less than spending days to clean up, if not rebuild, after a significant fire loss.  Just think about the lost revenue over one day as opposed to several weeks if not months.  Remember, you have control over your schedule and therefore you can plan for your downtime.  Your customers, employees and those close to you will all appreciate it.

To show you what I mean, the following photograph shows how dirty the burner and control area can get if not kept clean.

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This is the back of the fryer after it was removed from its place under the exhaust hood.  The burn pattern was created by the heat produced from burning on the inside the exhaust area of the fryer. The residue on the lower back was never touched and is therefore an example of how bad the accumulation can be if not cleaned regularly.

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The last photograph shows what the floor area looked like when the fryer was removed. The gas line, which is barely recognizable, was buried in the residue.

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Irrigation System Failure

Attention farmers and anyone else that uses long irrigation systems for crop growth. You risk damaging your equipment if you don’t maintain it on a regular basis.  Recently, we investigated the collapse of a system due to the accumulation of mud inside the main water distribution pipe.  A portion of the system is shown in the photograph below.

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Instead of causing the truss supports to fail, the system came apart at the rubber boots between sections. When one section came apart, it dragged another section down. Two pipes were found especially blocked with mud and sediment debris.  The photos below show the blockages.

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If your water source is a lake, river, or well, you are best advised to use some type of water filtration if you don’t want to risk this type of damage. The owner of this system was lucky in that his insurance carrier paid for the repairs.

Vehicle Recalls by Ford, GM, and Chrysler

 

The Ford Motor Company has recalled 2013 -2014 F-150 pick up trucks due to a problem with the brakes.  The trucks involved in this recall were manufactured Between August 1, 2013 and August 31, 2014 and equipped with 3.5L engines.  The problem with the brakes is that the master cylinder rear cup seal can leak brake fluid from the reservoir into the brake booster.  The loss of brake fluid results in the loss of braking power to the front brakes and increases the likelihood of a crash.  The recall was expected to begin on July 11, 2016.  Owners of the recalled vehicles should take their trucks to an authorized Ford Dealership where dealers will replace the master cylinder and if necessary, the brake booster, free of charge.  For additional information, owners can contact Ford customer service by calling 1-800436-7332 and referencing recall # 16S24.

 

General Motors has recalled certain 2016 Chevrolet Malibu vehicles due to a problem with the memory chip located in the electronic brake control module (EBCM).  The recalled vehicles were manufactured between March 7 and March 12, 2016.  The failure of the memory chip can cause the loss of the anti lock braking system and electronic stability control.  According to GM, if the EBCM fails, the primary braking function will still operate but, the vehicle will be harder to stop increasing the risk of a crash.  GM has already begun notifying owners and replacing the EBCMs as of June 17, 2016.  For additional information, owners can contact GM by calling Chevrolet customer service at 1800-222-1020 and referencing recall # 39440.

 

Chrysler has recalled 2009-2016 Dodge Journey vehicles manufactured between July 31, 2007 and November 12, 2016 for a problem with a defective power steering return hose.  The hose can rupture at engine start-up after being exposed to cold temperatures.  The rupture can cause a loss of power steering which can also increase the risk of a crash.  Chrysler dealers will replace the power steering return hoses, steel tubes and oil cooler free of charge.  The recall is currently in progress and owners should take their vehicles to their Chrysler dealer for the free repair.  For additional information, owners can contact Chrysler by calling 1-800-853-1403 and referencing recall # S08.

 

Chrysler has also recalled certain 2016 Jeep Cherokee Vehicles manufactured between September 30, 2015 and October 2, 2015.  These vehicles were manufactured with left side halfshafts that can fracture without warning.  A fractured halfshaft can disconnect from the drive axle increasing the risk of a crash.  This recall was begun on June 30th and has been assigned recall # S38.  Chrysler has also discovered that the problem extends to the right side halfshaft.  As a result, Chrysler has extended the manufacturing period of the recalled vehicles to include October 3, 2015 to March 22, 2016.  Chrysler has also assigned the recall number of S39 to address problems with the right side halfshafts.  For additional information, owners can contact Chrysler by calling 1-800-853-1403 and referencing the appropriate recall number.

Scholarship Awarded to Aaron Schneider

This year we have awarded our $500 scholarship to Mr. Aaron Schneider of Murfreesboro Tennessee. Aaron is a 2016 honors graduate of Central Magnet School.  While at Central, Aaron excelled in honors courses like Algebra, Geometry, Chemistry, Biology and Computers.  Aaron will be attending the University of Tennessee Knoxville in the fall of 2016 and major in Mechanical Engineering.  Lastly, Aaron’s interests are in the aerospace industry, specifically in jet engine design, navigational systems, and space travel.  Congratulations and best of luck at UT.

 

Toro Lawn Mower Defective Carburetor

Toro brand lawn mowers have recently come under attack by consumers for producing bad products.  Usually I am on the other end of a defective product but, this time I happen to be one of those consumers.  I purchased a Toro “Personal Pace” lawn mower last year and used it with good results all spring and summer.  This year, however, we started having problems. Although I could get the mower started, it would visibly shake and shortly thereafter, cut out.  If it kept going long enough for me to start cutting grass, no more than a minute into cutting and the engine would die.  It just would not continue to run.  The mower was taken to a Toro dealer, Southern Lawn and Equipment, where they supposedly cleaned the carburetor and it ran fine for them.  Once back home and in the grass, it didn’t take long before it started idling roughly and cutting out again.  The mower was returned to the dealer and this time they noticed that the choke was sticking.  The choke was adjusted and the mower returned.  Once again, after attempting to cut grass, the engine started cutting out again.  The third time that the mower was taken to the dealer, the dealer decided that the carburetor had to be replaced and that it would NOT be repaired under warranty.  It should be noted that Briggs and Stratton warranties the engine for three years and Toro would NOT stand behind the warranty.  The mower in question is shown in the photographs below. So, now we have a useless mower. Buyer Beware!

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Guards and Guy Wires

Did you know that the guy wires used to hold utility poles in place are supposed to be guarded? Those colored plastic covers that crack, break, and otherwise look terrible are required by code.  Specifically, the guy wire guards are required by the National Electrical Safety code (not to be confused with the National Electric Code).  It seems that someone years ago recognized that people would be walking around or working in close proximity to the guy wires.  Since contact with guy wires can cause severe injury, it was decided that guard covers would be required.  The surfaces of the steel wire strands are not intentionally smooth.  Instead, surface irregularities with sharp edges can occur during the wire drawing process.  If contacted, these surfaces can cause deep cuts.  Please note that although utility poles are generally owned by the electric companies, any other company that uses the poles does so by agreement with the owner.  This means that if cable or telephone companies have to use a pole, those companies are responsible for adding guy wires and the guards to secure the pole and protect the public.  If someone is injured on an unguarded guy wire, the company that owns the guy wire can be liable.

“Leave the Friggin Thing Alone!”

It still amazes me that whenever a fire occurs in a machine, like a car or a tractor, somebody who is NOT authorized, has to mess with it. There are still people out there that don’t realize that when they disassemble something they are tampering with evidence.  Even if the case has nothing to do with anything criminal, there is the possibility that a product defect or faulty workmanship might have been responsible for the fire.  But, if the machine (evidence) is disassembled, then evidence is compromised if not destroyed outright.  Disassembly and subsequent testing or examination cannot occur without all interested parties being placed on notice.  Once notified, all parties must be given the chance to participate in formulating a protocol for the disassembly, testing and examination.  After the protocol is formulated, the parties must agree on when and who will perform all necessary functions.  In short, all parties must have access to the same information at the same time.  If not, the potential for spoliation of evidence claims can become an avenue for additional lawsuits or defense, depending on your point of view.  Note that many property insurance policies have a subrogation clause which requires that the policyholder do everything it can to protect their carrier’s right which includes protecting evidence.

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