Dangerous Effects of Water on Appliances and Electronics

We have just witnessed Hurricane Irma, one of the worst storms to ever hit Florida, following Harvey, one of the worst storms ever to hit Texas. My wife and I were very lucky. Our home and businesses are intact. What little damage we had is trivial. Others were far less fortunate. Their homes were severely damaged or destroyed and it will take weeks, months or sometimes even years to recover.

One of the myriad of issues following a hurricane is water intrusion and water damage, specifically related to electrical and electronic fixtures, appliances and equipment. During a hurricane the contents of a home or building can be exposed to water by submersion in storm surge, a downpour through a rough roof or wall breach, or even small amounts of water through leaking windows and doors. The old adage about not mixing water and electricity holds true not only during the storm, but long after as well.

Most electrical devices (also including electronic items) were not designed for, nor were ever intended to be exposed to water. Water acts as a catalyst for corrosion of metals. It helps to speed up the oxidation of metals that would normally occur very slowly in air. Water containing impurities, such as salts, can accelerate oxidation much more. Water containing impurities, in the presence of an electrical current, can exponentially speed up oxidation to the point where we can watch metal conductors corrode and erode right before our very eyes.

As electrical conductors corrode, their resistance to carrying an electrical current increases. When resistance in the circuit increases,  energy lost is overcoming the resistance, and that energy is converted into heat.  Heat also speeds up the corrosion of metals.

This is the crux of the problem. Water causes corrosion in electrical circuits. Corrosion creates resistance, resulting in heating of the circuit, which causes additional more corrosion. The cycle of heat and corrosion can continue to the point where the conductors become hot enough to ignite surrounding materials.  Left unchecked, the electrical or electronic device can be the start point of a fire.

An electrical short on a circuit board caused by water intrusion.
Short on a printed circuit board caused by exposure to water.

This is particularly true where conductors are joined by mechanical means such as a cord plugged into wall receptacle, at wire nuts inside of junction boxes, or push on wire terminals inside of appliances.

When it comes to electrical and electronic components, “sitting it out to dry” may not be enough. Corrosion may have already occurred before any attempt was made to power up the device. Water and contaminants can work their way into microscopic crevices that can never be fully dried or cleaned. A device or appliance may appear to be OK and work satisfactorily after sitting out in the sun for a few days. The reality, however, is that it could be a incendiary time bomb waiting to go off weeks, months or even years after the storm.

Here’s the bottom line.  If it’s been wet or underwater, have the device or appliance professionally cleaned and dried.  If it’s not worth the cost of professional services, you’re probably better off getting rid of it.

And please consider recycling your devices instead of sending them to a landfill!

Is St. Petersburg Going Solar?

According to an article today in the Tampa Bay Times, there is currently a proposal in the St. Pete city council to make solar power mandatory on new home construction and major renovations.  If passed, it would make St. Pete the second city in Florida to require solar power, after South Miami.

Solar Panel, Solar Energy, Solar Power, Solar Power Fire
Solar Panels at a Solar Farm
http://www.tampabay.com/news/growth/st-petersburg-proposal-would-require-solar-panels-on-new-homes-and-major/2335594

As with the introduction of any new technology, there is the potential for unforeseen consequences, and misunderstanding and mistrust of that new technology.  That’s why we work to keep abreast of emerging trends in material and energy engineering.  If you have a fire that might involve solar power, wind power, Li-ion batteries or anything else “New and Improved”, give us a call!

 

 

Latest Fire Related Consumer Product Recalls

212

Living Traditions Mini Barrel Charcoal Grill
Name of product:  Mini barrel charcoal grills
Hazard:  The exterior paint on the grill can ignite, posing a fire hazard.

409

Children’s two-piece woven pajama sets
Hazard:

The children’s pajamas fail to meet the federal flammability standards for children’s sleepwear, posing a risk of burn injuries to children.

221

Hazard:  The children’s robes fail to meet federal flammability standards for children’s sleepwear, posing a risk of burn injuries to children.
Source:  CPSC.gov

Latest Vehicle Fire Related Recalls

(RJ Meier photo)

Transportation Collaborative, Inc. has recalled an unspecified number of 2012-2017 Transtech Buses.
Certain vehicles equipped air conditioning utilize a 30AMP in-line fuse holder, the fuse holder may overheat and cause a fire.
https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls?nhtsaId=17V399

Honda (American Honda Motor Co.) is recalling (193) 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid vehicles.
The affected vehicles have an engine fuel feed hose and a fuel purge hose that may have been misrouted during vehicle assembly, creating a fire hazard.
https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls?nhtsaId=17V424

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling (4) 2017 Ram 1500 trucks. The fuel tanks in these vehicles may have a broken fuel tank control valve which might leak fuel in a roll-over, failing to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 301, “Fuel System Integrity.”
https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls?nhtsaId=17V434

Honda (American Honda Motor Co.) is recalling (24127) 2017 Honda CR-V 2WD and AWD vehicles. The affected vehicles have a fuel supply pipe that may crack, which leak fuel and create a fire hazard.  https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls?nhtsaId=17V442

A Tale of Two States, and Fire Sprinklers

In Alabama, a new law allows plumbers to install fire sprinklers after a 32 hour training course.

Gov. Ivey signs bill to let plumbers install sprinkler systems

Source: Twitter

In Hawaii, developers succeeded in extending a state law that thwarts local authorities from adopting their own fire sprinkler requirements.  Their celebration party was cancelled after a fatal fire in a Honolulu hi-rise building with no sprinklers made the national news.

Industry Cancels Celebration Of Ban On Sprinkler Requirements

Who would have guessed Alabama as the more progressive state for fire safety?

 

Sources: NFPA

https://community.nfpa.org/community/home-fire-sprinkler-initiative/blog/2017/07/07/governor-signs-bill-allowing-plumbers-to-install-home-fire-sprinklers

https://community.nfpa.org/community/home-fire-sprinkler-initiative/blog/2017/07/19/following-hawaiis-marco-polo-high-rise-fire-attention-placed-on-states-sprinkler-ban

Fire Expert, Richard Meier on HLN

Richard Meier’s latest appearance on HLN.

Sad case.  So tragic.

Thank you to HLN and Primetime Justice With Ashleigh Banfield for having our own Richard Meier on as a guest last night.  We love being able to share accurate Fire Investigation Science with the public.  Rich talked about the science and procedures involved in a origin and cause investigation.  No matter how big, small, infamous, obscure or controversial the case, basing your investigation on sound science is the only way to answers for your client and the victims.

Louisiana House Fire.mp4

MYSTERY UNFOLDING after a wife is found shot dead in a house fire. Could there be a killer on the loose?

Posted by Ashleigh Banfield on Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Credit – HLN Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield.  Share from FB Page

Want to see Rich on TV more often?  Please take a moment to like the video on Ashleigh Banfield’s Facebook Page.  They deserve kudos for creating quality discussions on crime & forensic science.

Sharing our passion for science and fire investigation is one of the best parts of the job. At Meier Fire, we always welcome an opportunity to talk about the science of Fire Investigation.   Contact us to speak at your group.

 

 

South Miami to Require Solar Power in New Homes

A new ordinance passed in South Miami on July 17, 2017 will require new homes, and homes undergoing major expansion, to be equipped with solar electric panels beginning on Sept. 18, 2017.

 

A Florida first: South Miami to require solar on new homes

What does that mean for the fire investigator?  Another level of technology and complexity that they will have to understand when investigating a fire at a home equipped with solar power.

Has your fire investigator ever investigated a fire involving solar or wind power?  We have!

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/south-miami/article162307863.html

http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/South-Miami-Becomes-First-City-in-Florida-to-Pass-Solar-Panel-Mandate-on-New-Homes-435297373.html

Source:  FloridaTrend.com

 

Latest Fire Related Vehicle Recalls

Photo showing fire patterns on the hood of a burned car.
Engine Compartment Fire

KTM North America, Inc. is recalling an unspecified number of 690 Duke model motorcycles.
On affected motorcycles, fuel can leak from the filler cap.
https://static.nhtsa.gov/odi/rcl/2017/RCLRPT-17V388-9062.PDF
Note: While not specifically mentioned in the recall, a fuel leak generally presents a fire hazard.

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling an unspecified number of 2014-2015 Coachmen RV, Cross Country and Encounter, and 2014-2018 Coachmen RV Mirada and Mirada Select recreational vehicles.
Vehicles equipped with the residential refrigerator have exposed wire ends, creating a fire hazard.
https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls?nhtsaId=17V396

Lakota Corporation is recalling (152) 2018 Colt camping trailers.
The furnace flue may not have been installed properly, allowing furnace exhaust to vent into the trailer’s living quarters.
https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls?nhtsaId=17V410

Honda has recalled (1,148,466) 2013-2016 Accords passenger cars.
The case for a battery sensor may leak, leading to a short circuit and fire.
https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls?nhtsaId=17V418

Keystone RV Company is recalling (142) 2018 Dutchmen Coleman travel trailers.
The vehicles may have incorrect wiring connectors at the air conditioner junction box, causing a fire risk.
https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls?nhtsaId=17V421