Space Heater Fire Cause

Recently, we were asked to investigate a fire involving a newly purchased space heater. Space heaters tend to be small heating appliances meant to heat “small” spaces inside a home or other building. In this particular case, the heater was intended for use with propane gas and rated with a capacity of 30,000 BTU/hr. The homeowner had purchased the heater from a local Home Depot store and installed the heater himself. The installation amounted to connecting the heater to a gas supply line. After approximately three days use, a fire occurred. Luckily, the fire was quickly extinguished with minimal burn damage to the floor and smoke damage throughout the remainder of the home. Upon visual examination of the gas line connection, it was noted that the shutoff valve had been attached to the heater gas line fitting. The proper position for the shut off valve was in the gas supply line from the home at the point where the line was accessed above the floor. The outlet of the valve is then supposed to be connected to that part of the gas line that is connected to the heater. However, the main problem was found to have been in the connection of the valve to the heater fitting. The shut off valve appeared to have been cross-threaded onto the fitting. The pipe joint compound used to seal the threaded connection was also scorched and was indicative as well as a confirmation of a gas leak at that point. In should be noted that since propane is heavier than air, an accumulation around the heater while it was in operation would have ignited, which is what actually happened. The photographs below show how the shut off valve was misaligned with the heater fitting and the resulting damage to the heater.

Holiday Fires

This is the time of year when everyone gets excited because Christmas is almost here.  It’s also the time when happiness can turn to disappointment in the blink of an eye.  Disasters caused by fire don’t take a holiday just because it’s Christmas.  This is a time when we need to be especially careful when hanging lights and decorating our trees.  If your strings of lights are frayed, bare or arcing, don’t use them.  If you are using ornaments that contain internal lighting, be sure that the wires are not pinched, the insulation is not cracked and that the bulbs are securely in place.  In addition, be sure that the plugs are in good condition and the prongs are not loose or broken.  Be careful using extension cords.  If you are hanging exterior lighting and you need an extension, be sure to use an extension approved for exterior use.  Do not use an interior extension cord with exterior lighting as they are typically not weather proof.  Rainwater entering the connection can easily cause a short circuit.  Keep an eye on timers and automatic switches to make sure that they turn on and off at the appropriate times.  Just some food for thought…

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

Brake and Battery Issues Prompt GM to Recall Trucks

General Motors has recalled approximately 464,000 Cadillac CT6, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 trucks, all 2019 model year vehicles.  GM has discovered that a software error can disable the electronic stability and antilock braking systems.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), dealers are supposed start repairing recalled vehicles on January 27, 2020.  The repair will consist of reprogramming the antilock brake computer.  GM has also recalled 350,000 model years 2019 and 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickup trucks.  The problem with these vehicles is that the cable that goes from the battery to the alternator has too much glue in it.  As a result, the glue imposes a resistance to the flow of current and can cause the engine to stall, and possibly ignite.  This recall is also expected to begin on January 27, 2020.  Dealers are supposed to inspect the cables and clean the connections if necessary.  For additional information, owners can contact GM by visiting their website at www.gm.com, then scrolling to the bottom of the page and click on recalls.   Please have your vehicle identification number ready as you will be prompted to enter it to see if your vehicle is affected. 

Ford Recalls Super Duty Trucks

Ford Recalls Super Duty Trucks

The Ford Motor Company is recalling approximately 500,000 Super Duty trucks due to a concern that sparks from a seat belt pretensioner can start a fire.  The seat belt pretensioner deploys when a crash occurs.  Upon impact, the pretensioner is engaged and begins to emit sparks.  The sparks can then ignite carpet and carpet insulation in the area of the side roof pillar, also known as the “B” pillar.  If ignition occurs, the risk of injury can increase depending on the condition of the vehicle occupants.  This recall applies to F 250, F 350, F 450, and F 550 Super Duty, Super Crew vehicles built at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant between October 8, 2015 and October 29, 2019.  “Super Crew” refers to those affected vehicles that have four full-sized doors.  Dealers will apply foil tape to the carpet and carpet insulation and modify the sound deadener on the backside of the “B” pillar trim panel at no cost to owners.  For additional information, owners can contact Ford by calling 1-800-392-3673 and referencing recall number 19S52.  Owners can also go to NHTSA’s website and enter their vehicle identification number to determine if their vehicle is recalled.  If no recall appears, then the vehicle is NOT recalled.

Holiday Greetings

R. J Hill Consulting would like to wish you and yours

Happy Holidays !

Leaking LG Refrigerator

LG is the manufacturer of a French door refrigerator equipped with a bottom drawer that leaks water.  We recently investigated a case where the homeowner purchased an expensive LG refrigerator and used it for approximately three months before noticing water dripping and accumulating under the right front corner of the unit.  The model number of the unit is LFXC22526D/01.  Upon researching, you find that LG would like you to believe that the water leakage is due to a clogged defrost line.  However, with a refrigerator as new as this was, there should not have been any problems.  Moreover, the refrigerator was clearly under warranty and LG and the Lowes Home Improvement store where the unit was purchased should have addressed the situation promptly.  Instead, the homeowner had to battle both the manufacturer and Lowes for over a month before finally getting Lowes to agree to an exchange.  The refrigerator in question is shown in the photographs below.  It should be noted that the homeowner’s insurance carrier will replace the kitchen floor and is likely to pursue subrogation against the manufacturer in order to recover its costs for the repairs.

Defective LG Refrigerator

Area of Water Leakage and Damage to Floor

The Heating Season Begins…

As autumn progresses, daily temperatures begin to drop.  And so the heating season begins.  It’s that time of year when particular attention should be paid to making sure that your furnace is in good operating condition.  This means that the blower motor and burners should be thoroughly cleaned, old filters should be replaced, and the cyclic operation tested to make sure that everything works properly.  The cyclic operation is tested simply by turning up your thermostat to a temperature above the ambient where the burners should ignite and the blower motor should begin circulating air.  When the thermostat is turned down to a temperature below the ambient, the burners should turn off and the blower motor should also stop after a few minutes.  If you furnace is in a closet, make sure that anything stored in the closet that is combustible is removed and stored elsewhere or discarded.  If you will be using a gas logs unit, be sure that the burner and logs are free from dust and lint before using.  In addition, be sure that the unit is properly ventilated, your chimney damper is open or you have a window open to draw in air with a non-vented appliance.  Gas ranges are NOT intended to be used as heating appliances – please do not light all burners and keep it going indefinitely.  Carbon Monoxide can fill an enclosed room and become deadly.  Electric furnaces do not have this problem because they are not gas burning appliances.  However, heat can eventually cause wiring insulation to become brittle and short circuits can occur, leading to fires in homes and businesses.  When the heating demand is increased on boiler applications, pumps should be checked to make that water flow is not restricted and that all safety devices are operational.  Similarly, in geothermal applications water flow is critical in heat transfer between the heat source and the heat sink.  It is imperative that all piping, pumps and controls be inspected to assure proper operation and the prevention of loss due to fire.  Lastly, if you don’t know how to service your heating equipment, call a qualified service company!

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