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Abstract Candles can enhance décor or be a source of light. However, they can also start fires. National estimates of reported fires derived from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey show that candles were the heat source in an estimated average of 9,300 reported home fires annually during 2009-2013. These fires caused an average of 86 civilian deaths, 827 civilian injuries and $374 million in direct property damage per year. More than one-third (36%) of home candle fires started in the bedroom. Almost three of every five (58%) fires occurred because the candle was too close to something that could burn. Candle fires are most common around the winter holidays. Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power appear to pose a particular risk of fatal fire. Home candle fires climbed through the 1990s but have fallen since the 2001 peak. ASTM F15.45 has developed a number of standards relating to candle fire safety. Despite the considerable progress made in reducing candle fires, they are still a problem. In 2009-2013, candle fires ranked second among the major causes in injuries per thousand fires and average loss per fire. Efforts to prevent these fires must continue.

Abstract

Candles can enhance décor or be a source of light.  However, they can also start fires.  National estimates of reported fires derived from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey show that candles were the heat source in an estimated average of 9,300 reported home fires annually during 2009-2013.  These fires caused an average of 86 civilian deaths, 827 civilian injuries and $374 million in direct property damage per year.  More than one-third (36%) of home candle fires started in the bedroom.  Almost three of every five (58%) fires occurred because the candle was too close to something that could burn.  Candle fires are most common around the winter holidays.  Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power appear to pose a particular risk of fatal fire.  Home candle fires climbed through the 1990s but have fallen since the 2001 peak.  ASTM F15.45 has developed a number of standards relating to candle fire safety.  Despite the considerable progress made in reducing candle fires, they are still a problem.  In 2009-2013, candle fires ranked second among the major causes in injuries per thousand fires and average loss per fire.  Efforts to prevent these fires must continue.

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Abstract

Upholstered furniture has long been the leading item first ignited in terms of home fire deaths. Based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA’s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) annual fire department experience survey, NFPA estimates that during 2010-2014, upholstered furniture was the item first ignited in an average of 5,630 reported home structure fires per year. (Homes include one- and two-family homes, apartments or other multiple family homes, and manufactured housing.) These fires caused an estimated annual average of 440 civilian deaths, 700 civilian injuries, and $269 million in direct property damage. Overall, fires beginning with upholstered furniture accounted for 2% of reported home fires but 18% of home fire deaths. Smoking materials remain the leading cause of these fires and associated losses.

 

 

NFPA Research

Abstract

Upholstered furniture has long been the leading item first ignited in terms of home fire deaths.  Based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA’s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) annual fire department experience survey, NFPA estimates that during 2010-2014, upholstered furniture was the item first ignited in an average of 5,630 reported home structure fires per year.  (Homes include one- and two-family homes, apartments or other multiple family homes, and manufactured housing.)  These fires caused an estimated annual average of 440 civilian deaths, 700 civilian injuries, and $269 million in direct property damage.  Overall, fires beginning with upholstered furniture accounted for 2% of reported home fires but 18% of home fire deaths.  Smoking materials remain the leading cause of these fires and associated losses.

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Fact Sheet

Automotive Battery Explosions By Charles C. Roberts, Jr., Ph.D., P.E.

As shown in Figure 1, the typical automotive battery, of lead/acid construction, is an electrochemical container that produces voltage, which causes electrical current to flow to various components in an automotive vehicle. An outer polymer case (high density polypropylene) acts as a container for an electrolyte (sulfuric acid), six cells and lead plates. Each cell delivers 2.1 volts with a total voltage of 12.6 volts, at full charge.  Vents are installed at the top of the battery to vent gasses formed during the normal charging cycles.

Figure 1

During the charging cycle, hydrogen gas is generated and accumulates in the head space above the electrolyte level, prior to venting. Hydrogen gas has a wide range of explosive limits in air, ranging from 4 to 72% hydrogen in air and is easily ignited by a flame or spark. If the hydrogen is ignited inside the battery, it typically blows off the top of the battery case, showering sulfuric acid in the immediate vicinity along with fragments of the battery case. The explosive energy generation is so rapid that the vents cannot relieve the pressure in time to prevent an explosion.

Figure 2 is a view of a two year old battery that exploded, causing personal injury from acid burns. This occurred when a standby generator was starting during its normal maintenance test cycle. The top of the battery was blown away, suggesting that hydrogen was ignited inside the battery.  Figure 3 is a view of a battery fragment that was found imbedded in the ceiling of the building that enclosed the generator.

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Inspection of the battery shown in Figure 2 revealed that one of the intercell connectors (Figure 4) was loose and corroded. A loose connection inside a battery can result in an electrical arc jumping across the gap, igniting the hydrogen.  In this case, the loose connection was determined to be a result of a manufacturing defect.

Other internal explosive ignition conditions may exist that are not related to a manufacturing defect:

  • A conductive bridge may be formed between two plates as a result of low electrolyte levels. When a high current demand is placed on the battery, it can arc, igniting hydrogen gas and initiating an explosion. This is a result of improper battery maintenance where the electrolyte level should be monitored periodically and lost electrolyte replaced.  Maintenance free batteries have a hydrometer that measures the specific gravity of the electrolyte (an indicator of the concentration of the electrolyte and hence, the electrolyte level) and indicates whether or not a battery should be replaced.
  • External ignition sources often manifest themselves in the form of loose battery cable connections or a poor connection with battery charger clamps that generate an electrical arc. Jump starting vehicles with dead batteries can result in electrical arcs at the dead battery terminals if the last set of clamps is attached to the dead battery. Recommended procedure is to attach the jumper clamps to the dead battery first and then to the live battery.
  • Battery explosions have occurred as a result of tools being placed between the battery terminals. Some individuals test a battery by placing a screw driver across the terminals to see if an arc jumps, revealing whether the battery is supplying electrical energy or not. This can result in a battery explosion since the current through the screw driver is not regulated, can be very high and generate an electrical arc, causing an internal or external explosion.
  • Corrosion, which can cause electrical resistance and a possible arc ignition source, may develop at battery terminals as shown in Figure 5, which also illustrates a loose or improperly secured battery clamp.

Figure 5

As in most investigations, retention of the evidence is desirable if subrogation is anticipated. In battery explosion losses, fragments may be found scattered throughout the scene and imbedded in the building structure. Collecting these pieces helps the technical analyst determine the cause of the explosion. It is encouraged to have the battery analyzed in a timely manner to reduce the effect of corrosion, which can obscure evidence.

From Out of the Abyss...

This week’s article from the past is titled Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted and was written by Benjamin Horton, CPCU, who was President of the National Adjuster Traing School in Louisville, Kentucky..  It is taken from the Decembe 1968 Vol. XVI No.5 issue.

Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted 

In the new issue of NFPA Journal®, President Jim Shannon said the Association will focus on the leading causes of home fires, including cooking. "We also need to continue to push hard for home fire sprinklers. That's still a large priority for NFPA, and we plan to work very aggressively in 2014 on our residential sprinkler initiative," he said.

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NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations plays a fundamental role in fire and explosion investigations. A new edition of NFPA 921 is scheduled to be published in 2014. For years, this document has played a critical role in the training, education and job performance of fire and explosion investigators. It also serves as one of the primary references used by the National Fire Academy to support its fire/arson-related training and education programs. It is imperative that investigators understand the scope, purpose and application of this document, especially since it will be used to judge the quality and thoroughness of their investigations.

NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations plays a fundamental role in fire and explosion investigations. A new edition of NFPA 921 is scheduled to be published in 2014. For years, this document has played a critical role in the training, education and job performance of fire and explosion investigators. It also serves as one of the primary references used by the National Fire Academy to support its fire/arson-related training and education programs. It is imperative that investigators understand the scope, purpose and application of this document, especially since it will be used to judge the quality and thoroughness of their investigations.

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Back to Basics: The Fire Tetrahedron

How often have you heard the phrase “back to the basics”? It seems
as though every time you turn around you are being instructed to go
“back to the basics,” whether it’s with our children and their math
homework or it’s in the fire service with establishing a water supply,
advancing a hose line, or conducting ventilation. The “basics” are
those tasks that you need to complete first, and they must be completed
every time.

Coffee Break Training

How often have you heard the phrase “back to the basics”? It seems as though every time you turn around you are being instructed to go “back to the basics,” whether it’s with our children and their math homework or it’s in the fire service with establishing a water supply,advancing a hose line, or conducting ventilation. The “basics” are those tasks that you need to complete first, and they must be completed every time.

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