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By Joe Sesniak, IAAI-CFI, IAAI-CI, CFEI, GIFireE

Loose electrical connections at screw terminals can create an increase in resistance, which promotes development of oxide layer(s) on the affected metals and localized heating. While the oxides are conductive (meaning the circuit will still “work”) its resistance is higher than that of the original metals involved (NFPA 921, 2014)[1]. The nature of the heating results in a locally high “watt density” and creates a potentially competent ignition source for proximal fuels (DeHaan, J., Icove, D., 2012)[2]. Recent literature, including works by Benfer and Gottuk (2013)[3], Korinek and Lopez (2013) [4] and Shea (2006)[5], provide detailed explanation of the chemical and physical processes of oxidation (copper I and copper II oxides) and corrosion associated with high resistance or “glowing” electrical connections. It is the visible effects of such localized high resistance heating on the receptacle terminals, and the persistence of these effects in a post-flashover fire environment, that are the subject of this paper. INTRODUCTION In this research, glowing connections were created on multiple electrical receptacles to produce heat effects on only one line side terminal connection of each receptacle. The purpose of this experiment was not to determine how heat effects manifest themselves on the terminals of electrical receptacles and associated conductors. The focus of this study was to determine whether or not the known effects persist beyond flashover at a visually perceptible level. This information is of importance to the fire investigator in the field. The reader should note that this work is considered preliminary. Potential variables were minimized, such as having conductors terminated on all screw connections and having multiple receptacles with varying loads on the same circuit. Further testing is required to evaluate the significance of such variables. Nonetheless the results of this testing are notable. The “heat damaged” test receptacles were installed in metal junction boxes and exposed to a room and contents fire that transitioned through flashover. The compartment was not instrumented. The point of origin and fuel load arrangement was selected to expose the receptacles to varying levels and duration of heat intensity. The post-flashover persistence of the effects of a glowing connection was subsequently visually evaluated. The intent was to provide fire investigators a resource for the preliminary field evaluation of electrical receptacles as a potential ignition source.

Loose electrical connections at screw terminals can create an increase in resistance, which promotes development of oxide layer(s) on the affected metals and localized heating. While the oxides are conductive (meaning the circuit will still “work”) its resistance is higher than that of the original metals involved (NFPA 921, 2014)[1]. The nature of the heating results in a locally high “watt density” and creates a potentially competent ignition source for proximal fuels(DeHaan, J., Icove, D., 2012)[2].  Recent literature, including works by Benfer and Gottuk (2013)[3], Korinek and Lopez (2013)[4] and Shea (2006)[5], provide detailed explanation of the chemical and physical processes of oxidation (copper I and copper II oxides) and corrosion associated with high resistance or “glowing” electrical connections. It is the visible effects of such localized high resistance heating on the receptacle terminals, and the persistence of these effects in a post-flashover fire environment, that are the subject of this paper.

INTRODUCTION

In this research, glowing connections were created on multiple electrical receptacles to produce heat effects on only one line side terminal connection of each receptacle. The purpose of this experiment was not to determine how heat effects manifest themselves on the terminals of electrical receptacles and associated conductors. The focus of this study was to determine whether or not the known effects persist beyond flashover at a visually perceptible level. This information is of importance to the fire investigator in the field. The reader should note that this work is considered preliminary. Potential variables were minimized, such as having conductors terminated on all screw connections and having multiple receptacles with varying loads on the same circuit. Further testing is required to evaluate the significance of such variables. Nonetheless the results of this testing are notable.The “heat damaged” test receptacles were installed in metal junction boxes and exposed to a room and contents fire that transitioned through flashover. The compartment was not instrumented. The point of origin and fuel load arrangement was selected to expose the receptacles to varying levels and duration of heat intensity. The post-flashover persistence of the effects of a glowing connection was subsequently visually evaluated. The intent was to provide fire investigators a resource for the preliminary field evaluation of electrical receptacles as a potential ignition source.

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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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SAN DIEGO - A Team 10 and Scripps News investigation found arson fires are not investigated properly in many American cities -- including San Diego -- due to a chaotic patchwork of reporting systems and standards.

Many deliberately set building fires are not reported to the federal government.

Nationally, just 5 percent of all residential building fires are intentionally set, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.  Data collected by Scripps News suggests the national arson rate to be significantly higher.

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White Paper

Study by: Albert Simeoni, Zachary C. Owens, Erik W. Christiansen, Abid KemalExponent, Inc. USAMichael Gallagher, Kenneth L. Clark, Nicholas SkowronskiNorthern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, USAEric V. Mueller, Jan C. Thomas, Simon Santamaria, Rory M. HaddenSchool of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UK

Albert Simeoni, Zachary C. Owens, Erik W. Christiansen, Abid Kemal Exponent, Inc. USA Michael Gallagher, Kenneth L. Clark, Nicholas Skowronski Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, USA Eric V. Mueller, Jan C. Thomas, Simon Santamaria, Rory M. Hadden School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UK

ABSTRACT

Two experimental fires, with contrasting intensities, were conducted in March 2016, in the Pinelands National Reserve (PNR) of New Jersey, United States in order to provide a preliminary assessment of the reliability of the fire direction indicators used in wildland fire investigation.  The experiments were part of a larger project intended to measure firebrand production in a forested ecosystem.  As part of this project, fire behavior, as well as the environmental and fuel conditions were also measured.  Two burn parcels, covering an area of approximately 30 hectares each, were ignited from unimproved forest roads which delimited them.  The forest canopy was comprised primarily of pitch pine with intermittent oaks.  The understory contained a mixed shrub layer of huckleberry, blueberry, and scrub oaks. In order to explore a wide range of indicators, objects such as bottles, cans and small fence elements were planted in the burn area, and photographed before and after the fire.  To obtain an accurate measure of pre- and post-fire fuel properties, fuel load, fuel bulk density, and fuel moisture content were also measured. In addition, environmental data (wind velocity and direction, air temperature and humidity) were recorded.  The fire behavior can be reconstructed using measurements of fire rate of spread, fire front temperatures, fire front geometry, and heat fluxes.  Video and infrared cameras were used to document the general fire behavior in selected locations.  This paper represents the first step in the analysis of the fire indicators and focuses on the more intense of the two burns and on the appearance of the macro- and microscale fire pattern indicators.  A majority of the indicators were assessed, although the configuration of the burn parcels, the ignition technique, and precipitation immediately following the fires limited a full study.  The results show that some fire direction indicators are highly dependent on local fire conditions and fire behavior and may be in contradiction with the general spread of the fire.  Overall, this study demonstrates that fire pattern indicators are a useful tool but must be interpreted in the frame of a general analysis of the fire, combined with a good understanding of fire behavior and fire dynamics.

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Scholarship Application

The California Conference of Arson Investigators offers scholarships to each of their training conferences. Both the “SKI” and “CAMPY” scholarships are a result of generous contributions from our corporate sponsors.

Application Process

  • Applicants must fill out and submit an application to the CCAI office. (Mail, E-mail, or Fax) Applications will be forwarded to the Scholarship Committee to award the scholarships.
  • The application must include a letter from your supervisor indicating the need for you to receive this training and your agency’s financial circumstances that require you to apply for a scholarship.
  • Although it is not required, applicants that participate in their local Roundtables will receive preference. Applicants that participate in their local Roundtable are encouraged to contact their Roundtable Coordinator for an endorsement. Roundtable Coordinators are encouraged to nominate Roundtable participants through the application process, but must guarantee that the applicant is aware of the nomination and the applicant’s financial needs are documented.
  • Applications are only valid for the next conference. Applications will not be carried over for the following conference.
  • Applications must be submitted to the CCAI office within 45 days of the next scheduled conference. Selection(s) will be made and awardees will be notified at least 30 days before the conference.
 

Please contact me with regard to any questions, comments or suggestions.

Respectfully,

Bill Kilpatrick
Chairperson Scholarship Committee
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