1. #1
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    Default Heat sensing garage door openers?

    Has anyone ever heard of, seen, or what have you garage door openers that open when they detect heat?

    The reason I ask is because of two incidents I've had. The first was a few years back at a diesel shop that had LiftMaster commercial openers. They had a fire inside, and when we arrived, the bay door was open. It was Christmas morning and the owner hadn't been in the shop for a couple of days. There were no signs of break-in, so that pretty much ruled out someone opening from inside. Someone there told us that there were openers out there that had heat sensors on them and they'd open to vent the compartment. None of us had ever heard/seen such a thing, so we blew it off.

    Fast forward to my last shift. We get a call for a vehicle fire with a house threatened. We get there and the pick-up is fully involved and the garage door is open. Smoke/flames are pouring into the garage (lady parked almost against the door). Interviewing the owner, we asked if she had the garage open, she said "no" and had no idea how the door was open. I mentioned the heat sensor thing to our fire marshal, who had never heard such a thing. Once again, it's a LiftMaster commercial opener.

    Anyone know anything about these?

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    I've never heard of such a thing, but it is entirely possible. Any mechanical heat sensor could be wired to the standard dry contact closure control circuit for a home or commercial opener. No special wiring or design is necessary, it would go on the same wire as the open button.

    However, what is FAR more likely is the heat melted the insulation on the control wire. Contact closure triggers the door so as soon as the insulation melts, the two wires touch and triggers the control to open or close or stop or whatever.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I've never heard of it either. But in addition to what nmfire said, it is probaly possible to rig some type of fusible link into the system and as soon as it is tripped the doors open. Similar to emergency release cords that are on most commercial garage doors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    However, what is FAR more likely is the heat melted the insulation on the control wire. Contact closure triggers the door so as soon as the insulation melts, the two wires touch and triggers the control to open or close or stop or whatever.
    That is most likley what is happening. A control wire is shorting out while the drive unit still has power - and hasn't melted yet.

    I looked through the LiftMaster web site and find no mention of that type of "feature" on any residential or commercial model.

    We had a condo fire about a year ago in a Federal Judge's home that started in the garage. You can imagine how thorough the investigation was. I remember the garage door being listed as a "LiftMaster"... and I have photos showing the firefighters having to force the garage door open.
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    Default Possible explaination for second instance

    I'm still the new guy around these parts, so I'll try to watch my step and say that, with all due respect, I might have an idea what happened at the second incident.

    While I can't be certain, of course, I would be willing to bet that if the pick-up truck which was fully involved on your arrival had in it a remote opener for the door in front of it, that in the course of the fire melted and, in the process sent an "open" signal to the opener which, as would stand to reason, opened the door, you would have your answer.

    It should be easy enough to find out by simply asking the vehicle/home owner if there was such a remote in the vehicle.

    And, a neat experiment, if you have an opener along with a pair of remotes to waste, simply start a fire of appropriate intensity in a charcoal grill, throw the first remote on and as it melts watch and see if the door opens, then throw the second one one and see if the door closes. Or, you could probably take the less destructive (and, sadly, less entertaining, because as I always say "Any reason for a Barbeque is good enough for me") route and ask the manufacturer to test it for you.

    Seriously, though, this theory, if correct, shows how something as minor as a remote control melting in a fire could lead to an unfortunate situation should a crew be attacking a fire in a garage, were the same to happen - in reverse, and the door were to close while they are inside.

    A good SOP might be to always make an attempt to disconnect the opener from its power source (usually a plug from an outlet, but not always), and - as is always a sound procedure - prop the door open with something substaintial in case it were to fall. I, personally, liked to use large, heavy-duty C-Clamps inside the track of lightweight, residential overhead doors to prevent the rollers from travelling downward.

    Also there are now openers on the market with a battery back-up, so perhaps pulling the manual release once the props are in place would be a good idea, too. A long pike pole should allow this to be accomplished, as the opener and the release are usual right over the car parked inside the garage.

    Just two cents (or less) worth from me.
    Last edited by formerOHvolly; 07-05-2007 at 04:02 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by formerOHvolly View Post
    I'm still the new guy around these parts, so I'll try to watch my step and say that, with all due respect, I might have an idea what happened at the second incident.

    While I can't be certain, of course, I would be willing to bet that if the pick-up truck which was fully involved on your arrival had in it a remote opener for the door in front of it, that in the course of the fire melted and, in the process sent an "open" signal to the opener which, as would stand to reason, opened the door, you would have your answer.

    It should be easy enough to find out by simply asking the vehicle/home owner if there was such a remote in the vehicle.
    Actually, I already ruled that out. No opener in the truck. I'm wondering about the wires shorting out that someone brought up. I didn't pay attention to the wires on the door opener. I'll have to do that next time.

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    Default Hmmm... Well. Okay. Let's try this one.

    Okay, so no remote in the truck. Makes my theory as to the reason the door opened seem not so sound.

    That must mean the heat of the fire penetrated into the garage and melted the wiring for the safety override or the pushbutton opener, which are often near the overhead door, causing the door to open.

    I would still be interested to know if a melting remote control could, potentially, as I strongly suspect, cause the same result.

    In either case, I would say the rest of my post concerning the danger of the door moving in a fire and the appropriate safety steps is valid.

    Another two cents worth from me.
    America's Volunteer Firefighters -- Putting the Wet Stuff on the Red Stuff since 1736.

    "To make rescues fast, pull on past. Don't get stuck, because you blocked the truck."

    "The reason Smokey Bear had no children? Every time his wife got hot, he beat her with a shovel."

    "It's quite simple, really. You call, we come. Nothing to it. Whether you really need us or not, we'll come, because you called. That's what we do."

    RTF

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    Quote Originally Posted by formerOHvolly View Post
    And, a neat experiment, if you have an opener along with a pair of remotes to waste, simply start a fire of appropriate intensity in a charcoal grill, throw the first remote on and as it melts watch and see if the door opens, then throw the second one one and see if the door closes.
    Sounds like a job for the Mythbusters!
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    Anyone remember the YouTube video of a garage fire and the garage door closing on a couple guys? Wires short out, door goes up and yes, even down.

    Good reminder to always take care to "safe guard" the garage door.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    How about attacking the fire from the interior if its an attached building so you do not force the fire into the structure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonnyirons2 View Post
    How about attacking the fire from the interior if its an attached building so you do not force the fire into the structure.
    Actually, we did a little of both. The vehicle was outside the garage, so we attacked it (from between the garage and the truck) while another crew went interior to check for extension.

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    Just remember that if you need to enter through an overhead door as such....place a hook in the tack under the door...or a ladder....INSURE you prop the door open! It may be your only way out.
    IACOJ Member

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    Default Sometimes the only way in is through the garage

    This thread has progressed beyond its original subject of why an automatic overhead door opener activated during a fire situation to tactics and techniques for fires involing residential garages and surrounding areas and nearby vehicles. This is why I enjoy these forums so much.

    I agree, johnnyirons2, when attacking a fire, and particularly during an interior attack, the direction of the suppression effort should be from the unburned side. That's basic fire attack 101. However, taking it a step further, getting to the unburned side can be a real pain.

    Often, around here anyway; where the garage is attached to the front of the house and nearest the street; the most direct path to the unburned side of the fire is through the garage, into the kitchen and beyond, or this is the usual path of egress for the occupants, particularly during the winter months, and must be searched and then protected until the all clear is given.

    That is an otherwise useless piece of human behavioral science I picked up somewhere, people - especially people trapped in a burning structure will in all likelihood attempt to flee by the path they entered. So, if their usual manner of coming and going is through the garage, that's the way they'll likely go during a fire.

    Therefore, if on arrival and during size-up you find there's a reasonable expectation the occupants use the garage as their main path of travel to and from the home that path should be searched, along with the more common front door area. And, again, sometimes the best way to the fire can be through the garage - with all its inherent hazards.

    As I stated before the overhead door must be secured by some substantial and positive means, but one should not overlook the potential for the opener to activate, in either direction, thus steps should be taken to prevent endangering the firefighters operating in or beyond the garage by disabling the opener, if possible.

    An additional two cents worth from me.
    America's Volunteer Firefighters -- Putting the Wet Stuff on the Red Stuff since 1736.

    "To make rescues fast, pull on past. Don't get stuck, because you blocked the truck."

    "The reason Smokey Bear had no children? Every time his wife got hot, he beat her with a shovel."

    "It's quite simple, really. You call, we come. Nothing to it. Whether you really need us or not, we'll come, because you called. That's what we do."

    RTF

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