Contents of Aerosol Cans can be Flammable!

During a recent vehicle fire investigation, it was discovered that the owner had been carrying at least eight aerosol cans of different products during the hottest month of the year so far.  The fire resulted in the destruction of a Toyota Highlander that was only months old.  This is a perfect example that illustrates the fact that people will forget that the contents are flammable and that the potential for explosion and fire is very real.  In this particular case, some of the contents of these cans were identified as Raid Multi 7 Insect Spray, Bayer Advanced Home Insect Spray and Aqua Net Hair Spray.  The cans that were recovered are shown in the photograph below.  It was also determined that at least one of the cans exploded prior to the fire.  It is imperative to remember that when products in aerosol cans are purchased, they should be stored in a cool and dry place, not left in a hot vehicle.  Not all aerosol cans contain flammable ingredients but, if you are not going to read the label, then treat them as flammable and store them accordingly.

 

 

 

 

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State Farm Accused of Influence Pedaling

On May 25, the Huntington News reported that State Farm Insurance Company had attempted to influence the Illinois Supreme Court.  State Farm spent $4 million to get a judge elected so it could evade paying $1.05 billion to 4.7 million policyholders.  State Farm had authorized the repair of vehicles using non-factory authorized and non-original equipment manufacturer parts which resulted in a class action lawsuit.  However, it an attempt to evade paying the judgment, State Farm formed an elaborate network of contributors and funneled the $4 million to a judge’s campaign which was in violation of RICO statutes.  State Farm’s trial is scheduled for September 18th, later this year.  The full text of the Huntington News article can be found at http://www.huntingtonnews.net/157148.  The article also points out that State Farm failed to compensate policyholders in 48 states (except Arkansas and Tennessee) for “breach of contract” in using substandard parts.  This means that policyholders all over the country are affected, not just residents of Illinois.  Policyholders are encouraged to visit http://www.halevstatefarmclassaction.com/home/documents and review the documents.  Because of this situation, policyholders are supposed to receive a notice by postcard of the trial.  This is the policyholder’s notice of the possibility to recover damages if their vehicle was repaired with non-approved parts.  A copy of the postcard is part of the documentation contained in the Hale v State Farm website.

It’s Not Always the Contractor’s Fault.

Although the time has come when warmer weather is upon us, the effects of this past winter are still being felt.  Recently, we were involved in an investigation that focused on the cause of damage to a water cooling coil located inside of a cooling tower (see photo below).  This might seem strange to some but, it is possible to require the cooling of a building during the winter.  In the investigation we were performing, the system was comprised of a water cooled water chiller.  This might not mean anything to most people but to those familiar with chiller operation, water was the fluid used to both cool the air and remove the heat absorbed by the refrigerant.  On the condenser side, water was circulated through a shell and tube heat exchanger and then pumped to another coil type heat exchanger located inside the cooling tower.  The problem arose when the local air temperature began to drop below freezing.  As the water temperature dropped below 40 F, water flow between the condenser and water coil was stopped (as part of the automatic control sequence).  As the air temperature continued to drop, the water temperature also dropped until the water froze inside the coil and caused it to burst in several places.  Since this was new construction, it was the engineer’s position that the mechanical contractor had erred and was negligent in their responsibility to protect the equipment.  However, it was later determined that the building had been turned over to the building owner under the substantial completion part of the contract.  As a result, the building owner was responsible for the protection of the building as well as the building’s mechanical systems.  Regardless of the positions taken by the various parties, the design of the HVAC system including the incorporation of freeze protection, was the responsibility of the mechanical engineer.  This responsibility is not an arbitrary assignment.  It has been long recognized by engineers and specifically, those engineers that are involved in HVAC design.  Although freeze protection had been designed into other parts of the system, no provision for freeze protection was made for the cooling coil located inside the cooling tower.  When all was said and done, the engineer failed to incorporate an adequate way to protect the coil and blamed the contractor in order to avoid the appearance of failure on their part.

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Maytag Dryer Electrocution and Fire Hazard

Recently, we investigated the case of a minor fire that occurred in an electric dryer.  The dryer was purchased through a local home improvement store and installed by their crew.  When the dryer was test started, the vent line immediately began smoking and burning.  The dryer was later examined at the retail store where it had been purchased.  It was subsequently determined that one of the line cord connections at the terminal block, apart from the ground wire, was somehow connected to the dryer housing.  This connection, in effect, had made the appliance electrically “live”.  As a result, touching any metal part of the housing and something else such as a metal water pipe could have caused significant injury to the user.  However, since this was a new appliance and had never been used, the installers would not have been aware of the condition.  Instead, when the dryer was started, the housing was not only electrified but, current traveled through the aluminum exhaust duct to ground.  The exhaust duct was burned because it could not withstand the amount of current flow.  The dryer in question is manufactured by Whirlpool under the Maytag brand and is a model number MEDC215EW.  There are currently no recalls for this model.  At present, it is unknown if this is an isolated incident or if other incidents have occurred.

Destructive Force of Ice

As most everyone knows, this winter has been hard on just about every corner of the country.  It’s been a very cold winter and the southeast has had its share of low temperatures.  For this reason, buildings that must be protected against fire sometimes have to use dry sprinkler systems.  Conventional systems that pressurize lines with water up to the sprinkler heads are impractical because the lines are usually routed through areas (such as attics) that are subject to falling below freezing.  As a result, the water in the lines can freeze and cause the lines to beak or burst.  When thawing occurs, water damage will also occur.  In order to prevent such damage, dry systems are employed.  That is, instead of filing the lines with water, the lines are pressurized with air.  Pressurized air serves to keep the main water valve closed until such time as a fire causes the sprinkler heads to open and relieve the pressure.  As the air pressure is relieved, the main water valve opens, water fills the lines, and exits through the open sprinkler heads to fight the fire.  However, there are times when water can get into the branch lines.  Water can enter when there is a loss of air pressure due to a leak in the system or when water is completely removed such as after a hydrostatic test.  The photos below show what happens to an iron pipe tee when water is frozen inside.  In one instance, the tee is broken in half whereas in the second instance, the tee is fractured on one end.  Note that both fittings came from the same job.  Ice typically expands between 9 and 12% by volume and as a result, places a tremendous amount of pressure on the fitting walls to cause failure.

Rheem Water Heater Recall

On May 26, 2016 Rheem recalled approximately 50000 electric water heaters.  The problem with the appliances was that the temperature control could overheat resulting in a fire.  The recall applied to 40, 50 and 60 gallon units.  Recently, we encountered a water heater where a fire had occurred and caused damage to the upper control area including the circuit board that controls the water temperature. In this instance, damage was limited to the upper front of the appliance and the ceiling of the closet where the water heater had been installed.  However, if the fire had gone unnoticed, the fire would have spread to the remainder of the structure causing significant damage.  Water heaters involved in this recall are still in circulation.   Consumers are advised to contact Rheem if they have an appliance that should be replaced before a fire occurs.  A copy of the recall is shown below along with Rheem’s contact information.

 

Holiday Greetings

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

Happy Holiday Season!

 

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