Fires and Appliance Safety

The weather has definitely gotten colder and heating systems are being put to the test. There are different kinds of systems; electric resistance, gas-fired forced air, hot water, and steam to name a few.  Regardless of the type of system, the potential for accidental fire is part of all heating systems.   During this time of year, it not uncommon for problems to develop which, when left unattended, can result in significant damage to homes and businesses.  For example, furnaces, both gas and electric, should be cleaned at least once per year; at the beginning of the heating season.  Some people think that just because they change their air filters every once-in-awhile maintenance is complete.  NOT SO!  Depending on the efficiency of the filter in use, some dust particles will pass through the filter media and accumulate on blower blades, motors, and heat exchanger surfaces.  The burning smell often detected when the furnace is first started is the result of dust accumulation.  If the furnace is never cleaned, dust accumulation can ignite and spread outside of ductwork.  Similarly, if the controls area is never cleaned, burners can become clogged resulting in poor combustion and sometimes, delayed ignition.  Delayed ignition of gas/air mixtures can become explosive and when ignited, can release a tremendous amount of heat with deadly force.  Poor combustion can also produce carbon monoxide which when inhaled can be deadly, especially to elderly people and young children with respiratory problems.  Similarly, electric heating systems such as heat pumps should be checked for proper operation as well as components that are in good working condition.  One of the biggest problems that should be guarded against is the wiring insulation that becomes brittle with age and cracks.  Exposure of conductors can result in short circuiting leading to a fire which can then spread to the structure.  Just because a circuit is protected with a circuit breaker doesn’t mean that a fire can never develop.  Circuit breakers are current limiting devices NOT thermal limiting devices.  Heat exchange coils, motor, fans, and blowers in heat pumps should also be kept clean.  Heat pumps come in different configurations such as air to air, air to water, and air to ground.  In the last two configurations, a fluid such as water or glycol is circulated to transfer heat to or from the heat pump.  In order to do so, a pump is used to circulate the fluid and must also be serviced at certain times.  Failure to do so can result in pump motor burnouts that could result in fire.  Remember, the pump and its motor are usually two separate components unless intentionally manufactured as a single unit.  Lastly, there is not much that can be done with hot and steam boilers except to make sure that the wiring is in good condition, stack temperature is not excessive, and piping is also in good condition.  Also, remember that piping can also be a source of ignition.  Hot piping can ignite combustibles if contact is maintained long enough.  Maintenance is the key to preventing fires in heating equipment.

Happy Holidays

R. J. Hill Consulting would like to wish everyone a very Happy Holiday season.

“They Can’t Do Anything But Say No”

We’ve al been in situations where we have to ask for something but at the same time, doubting whether we’ll get what we want. And the only way to justify asking is to rationalize the request by thinking that we’ll never get what we want without asking. So, we inevitably conclude that “they can’t do anything but say no”. The same thing happens when people submit claims to their insurance carrier. You have to put your claim in someone else’s hands and wait for them to decide whether you have a valid claim. Usually, it boils down to a settlement between the carrier and insured. However, there are those instances that arise when damage occurs and the insured feels that it should be covered but, it likely is not. A case in point recently arose when an insured driver hit a plastic five gallon container with his car and filed a claim alleging damage to the transmission oil cooler. Upon investigation, it was also learned that the drainage of transmission fluid, which the driver claimed never to have noticed, resulted in the complete destruction of the transmission. For those that are not aware of the location of a transmission oil cooler, it is usually located in the radiator/condenser area, in the front of the vehicle, where air can come in contact. Knowing that the plastic container would have had to enter the air opening in order to contact the cooler, the bumper and grille areas were examined for damage and none was found. In addition, the air opening was much too small to allow even a part of the container to enter and make contact with the cooler. Furthermore, none of the cooling fins or tubes that were part of the cooler were damaged by anything external to the vehicle. Needless to say, the claim was denied much to the disappointment of the insured.

The message here is if you, as the insured, know that there is element of uncertainty in your explanation, then don’t be surprised if your claim is denied. That is not to say that all claims have to have a reasonable explanation. There are times when only an expert can explain the circumstances that are not obvious to a layman. But, when the explanation is bordering on the absurd, it’s time to reconsider your claim. Remember, you can submit your claim because they can’t do anything but say no.

Fiat Chrysler Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced on its website that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has recalled approximately 11 million vehicles for various defects. NHTSA has also listed the vehicles, the reason for the recall, and the NHTSA recall number.  The list has been reproduced below.  Owners of the suspect vehicles should review the list to see if their vehicle is part of one or more recalls.  If a recall is identified, owners should then take their vehicle to their Fiat Chrysler dealer for confirmation and then to obtain information on how the vehicle will be repaired.  The information that owners should receive include when the vehicle will be scheduled for repair, what work will be done, and how long the vehicle will be out of service.  Although the work to repair a recalled vehicle usually will not involve any cost to the owner, owners need to make sure that they do not have to pay for any “additional” or “disposable” items. Such items would include shop supplies like rags or the disposal of oil.  For additional information, owners can visit the NHSTA website at and perform a search (under recalls) for the vehicle in question.  The vehicles involved in the recall are:

Vehicle can exceed speed rating of tires, NHTSA recall # 15V-290

2014-2015 Ram 4500 and 5500 equipped with 6.4 L Hemi engines


Lack of brake power assist, NHTSA recall # 14V-154

2011-2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2011-2014 Dodge Durango


Fuel heater leak, NHTSA recall # 14V-635

2010-2014 Ram 2500, 3500, 4500 and 5500


Loosening of rear axle pinion nut, NHTSA recall #13V-038 & 14V-796

2009 Chrysler Aspen

2009 Dodge Durango

2009-2012 Dodge Ram 1500

2009-2011 Dodge Dakota

2005 Dodge Ram 1500


Failure of rear fuel tank structure, NHTSA recall # 13V-252

2009 Chrysler Aspen

2009 Dodger Durango

2009-2012 Dodge Ram 1500

2009-2011 Dodge Dakota


Failure of left tie rod assembly, NHTSA recall # 13V-527, 13V-528 & 13V529

2008-2012 Dodge Ram 4500

2008-2012 Dodge Ram 5500

2006-2008 Dodge Ram 1500

2003-2012 Dodge Ram 2500

2003-2012 Dodge Ram 3500


Inadvertent ignition switch movement, NHTSA recall # 14V-373, 14V-438 and 14V-567

2008-2010 Chrysler Town and Country

2008-2010 Dodge Grand Caravan

2009-2010 Dodge Journey

2006-2008 Jeep Commander

2005-2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2008 Chrysler 300

2008 Dodge Charger

2008 Dodge Magnum


Sudden alternator failure, NHTSA recall # 14V-634

2011-2014 Chrysler 300

2011-2014 Dodge Challenger

2011-2014 Dodge Charger

2011-2014 Dodge Durango

2012-2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee


Vanity lamp short circuit fire hazard, NHTSA recall # 14V-391

2011-2014 Dodge Durango

2011-2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee


Inoperative instrument cluster, NHTSA recall # 14V-749

2015 Dodge Challenger


Broken springs in clutch ignition interlock switch, NHTSA recall # 14V-795

2006-2007 Dodge Dakota

2006 Mitsubishi Raider

2006-2007 Dodge Ram 1500

2006-2007 Dodge Ram 2500

2006-2007 Dodge Ram 3500


Defective air bag inflators, NHTSA recall # 15V-313

2004-2007 Dodge Durango

2005-2007 Dodge Magnum

2004-2007 Dodge Ram 1500

2005-2007 Dodge Ram 2500

2006-2007 Dodge Ram 3500

2006-2007 Mitsubishi Raider

2005-2007 Chrysler 300 and Chrysler 300C

2007 Chrysler Aspen

2005-2007 Chrysler SRT8

2005-2007 Dodge Charger

2005-2007 Dodge Dakota


Side air bag deployment, NHTSA recall # 15V-041

2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee


Inadvertant air bag deployment, NHTSA recall # 15V-046

2003-2004 Dodge Viper

2002-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2002-2203 Jeep Liberty


Broken parking pawl, NHTSA recall # 15V-090

2005 Chrysler 200


Fuel Leak, NHTSA recall # 15V-114

2015 Dodge Challenger

2015 Dodge Charger


Fuel pump relay failure, NHTSA recall # 15V-115

2012-2013 Dodge Durango

2012-2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee


Driver and passenger door latch failure, NHTSA recall # 15V-178

2013-2014 Dodge Viper







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