Thread: Weird ignitions

  1. #1
    Forum Member
    EastKyFF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Posts
    3,090

    Default Weird ignitions

    War story time--what's the weirdest means of ignition or factor contributing to ignition that you have encountered?

    My weirdest factor would have been the electrical fire that started in a damaged cord on a garage floor and got an extra boost by apparently mini-BLEVE-ing the fuel tanks on two string trimmers hanging off a shelf about seven feet above the fire.
    "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.
    --General James Mattis, USMC


  2. #2
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Location
    F.L. CO,USA
    Posts
    107

    Default

    I would have to say lightning. I have seen lightning hit the West edge of a metal crowned roof flashing and travel to the East end then down a tree next to the house. Jump back to the house at the point a #7 nail was holding the siding on. Go into the house and blow out the drywall in a clothes closet and set the clothes on fire.

  3. #3
    Member

    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    West Deptford, NJ
    Posts
    33

    Default

    Luckily, I don't have to investigate many fire here on the college campus, but I have found some....interesting conditions...during fire inspections (we have done annual dorm/apartment inspections since the Seton Hall tragedy in conjunction with the NJ Div. of Fire Safety). here are a couple of my favorites:

    Xmas light paperclipped to the track of a drop ceiling - above the shower. (I have a photo of THAT one...great atmosphere)

    Smoke detector vents used as holders for incense sticks (which are prohibited)

    then there was the girl that decided that the best way to dry her soaked socks was to toss them in to the microwave. The heels ignited (most worn out spot...), she grabbed them when she smelled the smoke and tossed them into a wastebasket...

    college students = job security for fire inspectors/investigators....
    My views are, of course, mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinion of my station

    "Give me the storm and stress of thought and action rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. " ~ Robert Ingersoll

  4. #4
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Atlanta
    Posts
    3

    Default

    The weirdest ignition source I have seen was one that originated in an unheated crawl space beneath a residence after an electric blanket that had been placed on the ground to keep the family dog warm ignited when the dog "marked" it as his territory.....

    Next was the fire that started along a brick veneer wall, burned up into the eaves and down through the attic...totally destroyed the residence...cause was a 150 watt security light bulb that had been screwed into a lamp socket (no lamp) and suspended inside a large dog house placed against the brick wall in the back yard....the lamp was meant to keep the dog warm, but fell down inside the dog house and landed face down on a blanket, eventually igniting the blanket...

    third: electrical fire inside circuit breaker panel box inside gas station/quick stop....cause was traced to a security light pole 100 feet from main building....when the conduit was placed in the concrete of the base it was not centered...when the pole was placed on the base, it crushed the PVC conduit....the 240 volt three phase electrical wiring was crushed, but did not short out.....a water sprinkler contractor came out and wired up a sprinkler timer to a separate 120 volt single phase circuit pigtails, which had also been crushed at the base of the pole. the contractor departed, leaving the access panel off the base of the pole....along came a severe thunderstorm, which dumped water into the base of the pole....the water created a conductive path between the damaged wires on the 120 single phase circuit and the 240 three phase circuit, damaging wiring and distribution equipment inside the building, resulting in smoke and a (fortunately) limited fire. Original call was lightning....

  5. #5
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Posts
    2

    Default

    The best one in my yeards of service was when the Frie Chief had to investigate a car fire that seemed to have no cause of ignition. outside the car we discovered several fragments of old potato chip bags when we found a burned up bag in the glove compartment we learned later that the person loved chips and had put several bags in the glove compartment and that was the ignition factor!

  6. #6
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Oct 1999
    Location
    Freedom Fire Dept / Kaukauna,Wi,USA
    Posts
    4

    Default

    To firedogg70,

    What ignited the chips in the glove box? The guy with the potato chips needs to be questioned some more. Potato chips are sometimes used in incendiary fires. They ignite very easily. We have even used these in our fire investigation training burns. We lit the chips with a butane lighter in a polyurethane foam cushion chair. After the fire the chips looked like they had been spilled in the chair. At first the chips were mistaken as corragated cardboard(Ruffles). After closer examination you could tell they were chips by breaking them apart.
    Lt. Timothy J. Helms
    Freedom Fire Dept.
    Freedom, Wi.
    tjhelms@firehousemail.com

  7. #7
    Member

    Join Date
    May 2001
    Location
    Swartz Creek Mi. U. S. A.
    Posts
    40

    Default

    A lab pup about 5mo. old knocked a box of wooden matches off a table onto the floor. While chewing on the box, matches ignited. Fire & smoke damage throughout the house. the pup was not hurt.

    Stay Safe

  8. #8
    Member

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    32

    Default

    Although I don't necessarily believe this one for a minute, the wierdest ignition source I have heard of is a bee. That's right, a bee.

    A barn/shed type building burned to the ground in our first due area. As it turns out, a farmer was burning trash some distance away. The fire officer at the scene determined, through wisdom greater than my own, that a bee had flown through the burning trash and had self combusted. The "burning bee" continued flying through the air and into the building in question, where it subsequently ignited a fire.

    Now even if I truly believed that a bee started a fire (which I want to emphasize that I don't), there is no way that I would admit it in public, particularly in the newspaper (as this individual did). In my opinion, this was obviously not the cause of this fire......Anyone else want to offer their opinion???
    "Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends."

  9. #9
    Forum Member
    LACAPT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Location
    LA Can.
    Posts
    350

    Default

    I'm with you Truck 15, sounds like a lot of B to me! The strangest one that I have encountered was at a residence down in the basement bathroom. Seems as though Jr. was slicking his hair back with Brylcream on a regular schedule and then whiping off the excess with a face cloth. He apparently set the face cloth on a new bar of soap that was on the counter, the bar of soap contained phosphates so I am told and there was a chemical reaction causing the cloth to heat up and auto ignite. No damage to speak of but a lot of smelly soapy smoke.
    I have heard of arsonist using glycerin (which is in brylcream) and powdered phosphate laundry soap as an incidery device. Apparently because of environmental side affects they no longer use phosphates in laundry soaps.

  10. #10
    Member

    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Lewisville, Texas
    Posts
    87

    Default

    I worked a 40 acre grass fire that was started by someone wrapping a dead dog in linen and burning it. I guess they were creamating it. There were about 50 spent matches on the ground so they had a little trouble starting it.

    The same year we fought a wild land fire for 3 days that started from an old man burning his lunch sack after he was done eating. He said he wanted to help the environment out by not contributing to the land fills. Makes perfect sense to me. I dont know why the fire marshal was so damn mad at him.

    We also had a guy with a flat bed full of hay bails. He flicked out a cigar, lit the product, got really scared, rolled off the smoldering hay, which rolled down the hill, lit both sides of the freeway on fire, shut down I45 for 2 hours and burned his truck, trailer, and all of his hay (about 50 bails)

    Then we had a lady heating up leg wax, Nads I think, in the toaster oven.

    And the coolest one was a grass fire started by a pickup muffler, which spread to a fireworks shed....which ignited as we were pulling up....which caught the lower half of the planet on fire. Lots of work that day but it was damn sure worth it to see the "rockets red glare...the bombs bursting in air"
    My comments posted here do not reflect the views of my department.

  11. #11
    MembersZone Subscriber
    dmleblanc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Not the end of the earth but I can see it from here...
    Posts
    2,318

    Default

    This thread deserves to get bumped back up to the top...and I've got a couple of goodies to add.

    Probably the best one I've seen lately was at the home of one of my firefighters (and my wife's cousin). Double wide trailer (a nice one), fire started in the dining room area while they were at home. Everyone got out OK, moderate flame damage to dining room, smoke damage throughout. We were initially misled because the main v-pattern seemed to come from a corner of the room where lay a basket full of paper music rolls for their antique player piano. But we later discovered this was ignited from dropdown from the dining room curtain. The actual ignition point was the OPPOSITE side of the dining room window. His wife had plugged in one of those oil-filled air fresheners, the kind that's shaped like a little flower. Well, in questioning them, we discovered that the younger kids had a bad habit of pitching pennies into the "flower" for fun. Lo and behold, we found a penny among the debris that had two distinct arc marks on it that perfectly matched the prongs on the air freshener plug. A penny had apparantly slid between the wall and the plug, creating a circuit between the prongs! I wouldn't have beleived it if I hadn't seen the penny myself....

    Had another good one a few years back in a mobile home....The dryer was plugged into the outlet on a mechanic's drop light (which they were using for an extension cord, I guess). The floor was badly charred where the drop light was lying on the floor, indicating the point of origin. When we pointed out to the homeowners the point of origin, and that maybe they shouldn't have been using a drop light to run the dryer, they replied that yeah, they'd thought about that a couple of days ago when they burned up the first outlet on the drop light. They of course unplugged it and plugged it in the other outlet. Real geniuses, let me tell you.....

  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber
    EFD840's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Location
    Eclectic (no, NOT electric), Alabama
    Posts
    1,510

    Default

    A penny had apparantly slid between the wall and the plug, creating a circuit between the prongs!
    Since we're talkin' pennies here, we were dispatched to a vehicle fire and on arrival found a '70s era pickup with heat and smoke damage in the dash area. According to the driver, her 4 year old son thought it would be cool to stick a penny in the cigarette lighter.

  13. #13
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Dec 1998
    Posts
    630

    Default

    We had a fire in a teenagers basement bedroom. Quick knockdown and minor smoke damage to the rest of the house.

    I asked the teenager what happened. He stated he got up, turned on the ceiling light (wall switch) and went upstairs to shower. When he came back downstairs and opened the door, his dresser was on fire.
    He closed the door and alerted the rest of the family.

    It was apparent that the fire started in the middle of the waterbed and spread to the dresser. The ceiling light fixture was missing. The water bed had a thin foam pad under the sheets and the bottom sheets were pulled away from the pad. There was a hole in the top of the water bed at the point of origin. I reached into the hole and found a cheap white porcelin light fixture with a broken bulb. I could not find any screws for attaching the fixture to the ceiling box.

    Dad said there had been a ceiling fan in the bedroom but son didn't like it. Dad removed the fan and installed the light fixture. He used wire nuts to attach the wires but didn't think he needed to use the screws to attach the fixture to the box. The wires had come loose allowing the fixture with the hot bulb to drop on to the bed and ignite the foam pad. The bulb was hot enough to melt it's way into the bed. (150watt).

    I love do it yourselfers who take shortcuts.

    Stay Safe
    IACOJ

  14. #14
    MembersZone Subscriber
    DaCheif's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Ketchikan, Alaska USA
    Posts
    9

    Default

    The most unusual fire ever in my career was one that I had only heard about some 10 years before this incident but never ever, ever thought it could really happen.

    My partner and I were working a room and contents fire. We were just about to settle on "undetermined" when I decided to stuff my head way up into a void that could only be seen with the aid of a flash light, and kinking your head just right. And there it was! A dead rat. Not only was it dead, it was oh, medium rare or so. Good sized one too with a head full of burned teeth, and no hair. Its jaws firmly locked around the 14/2 wire supplying the (well,waddaya know) lighting circuit that the owners had complained of to the electrical company as flickering minutes before the fire.

    Who would've thought.

  15. #15
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Posts
    101

    Default

    $50k damage kitchen fire from the microwave. Seems the 5yo had seen his 14yo sister dry her mittens in it that morning. When the cat come in all wet... Those flea collars really burn! Poor cat.

  16. #16
    Forum Member
    stm4710's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Posts
    1,713

    Default What was this guy thinking?????????

    I investigated a fire 2 weeks ago that to me was one of the worst electrical jobs ever.
    The building was a typical 3 story ballon frame "triple decker" very common in and around Boston.

    The building had 4 electrical panels Landlords(smoke detectors,common area lights etc),1,2 and 3rd floors.

    All the panels accept the 2 floor had 100 amp mains and a normal set up of 15/20 amp breakers. The second floor had a 100 amp main and a SINGLE 40 amp for the whole second floor apartment.

    The fire started in a light fixture in a second floor bedroom. The wire was old 3 wire bx cable. The polarity to the light fixture was reversed. I guess a wire was cut short at one time.
    So the electrician took a wood screw and screwed this into a joist. Then took another piece of wire and went from the screw to the box.

    As you can probally figure out...........the wood screw heated up and....well the rest is history.
    I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.

  17. #17
    MembersZone Subscriber
    ullrichk's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Deleted by the forum gremlins
    Posts
    1,663

    Default

    A college student was nuking some pop tarts in the microwave in the town where I started as a firefigher. Unfortunately, said student failed to remove the wrapper from the pop tarts which started a small fire in the oven. The quick thinking student tossed the flaming pop tarts out the window. Problem solved - except for the raging grass fire he started outside. . .
    ullrichk
    a.k.a.
    perfesser

    a ship in a harbor is safe. . . but that's not what ships are for

  18. #18
    Forum Member
    ffexpCP's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    909

    Default

    I haven't personally encountered this but I've heard about it in an arson class I went to.

    This couple didn't get to see each other very often because the husband is a truck driver. So in the process of saying 'welcome back home' certain bedroom furniture got a rockin' and the extension cord between the bed post and the wall got pinched and shorted out. I'll bet you can all gess what hapened then. That must have been difficult to explain in the insurance co.

    "you burnt your house down by doing WHAT!?!?!?!"
    Last edited by ffexpCP; 04-20-2004 at 03:20 PM.

  19. #19
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Colfax, WA
    Posts
    16

    Talking

    We responded to a home of an 83 year old lady who lived with her 885 year old sister. They have done things the old-fashioned way their entire lives. Unrtil the day they decided to buy their first microwave. After unpacking the new appliance, they decided to inaugurate it with a bran muffin and a bearclaw.....for 15 minutes!

    No actual ignition, but a ton of smoke. After we set up the PPV at the front door, we squirted some "Febreeze" into the air stream and the burned muffin and bearclaw disappeared in no time.

    We did have to eulogize the microwave...customer service!

  20. #20
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Colfax, WA
    Posts
    16

    Exclamation

    OOPS! the sister was 85 not 885. Most of you would have figured that out, right?

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register