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Seems like this time of year, it is more likely to hear about fires in the workshop. I personally have never met anyone first hand who experienced a fire. of those with first hand experience, what caused their fire? I guess I'm curious about what is the some of the most common fire starters. maybe knowing will help me (and others) to avoid the same traps.

so, who out there is part of the elite group of fire starters?

russv
 

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The only fire I've had wasn't in the shop but in the back of my truck. I had some rags with thinner and poly and didn't want to leave them in the shop so I put them in a garbage bag with some other trash. I drove home for lunch and while I was eating I looked out the window and there were flames about 2-3 feet high in the bed of the truck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
that qualifies. we have a winner!

aren't you glad you didn't put off the clean up till AFTER lunch? lol

russv
 

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I heard of that happening, spontaneous combustion to rags soaked with finishes. Happened to a guy I knew, he had them in a bucket in the attached garage, they caught it while it was still contained in the bucket.

But you got me thinking to today russv, after that thread on heaters. That friend of mind that just put that heater in his garage. Sawdust in the air while that thing is running. It's hanging from the ceiling and has power vent combustion so it's going to suck the stuff right in. I would think it would take a high concentration of dust but I don't know. I think I might mention that to him and suggest he get an air cleaner.

My boiler is the same way, power vent with no intake air in my basement shop. I've not had a problem but it sits low on the floor not high up and I have two air cleaners that I run.
 

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I am in the process of getting heat into my woodshop and I was concerned about the dust and potential vapors from finishes causing a fire. I have chosen a separated-combustion heater (75,000 BTU) to prevent any potential fires. The flame is in a separate chamber that receives and exhausts to the outside, never exposed to the inside air. I am spending the extra money for this feature to prevent problems.
 

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I have the sudden and uncontrollable urge to mount a fire extinguisher every 3 feet in my garage shop :)
 

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A couple summers ago I was cleaning the shop and throwing the stuff in the box heater, wood stove. I poured about a third of a cup of denatured alcohol in a can to start the fire. Well, being a genius, think roadrunner, coyote, here. I tossed a lighted rag in the heater then tossed in the alcohol. Little did I realize that my can was on fire, for other geniuses, alcohol burns clear, you can't see it burn. Of course when I did realize it I threw the can and there was a little left in the can and it sprayed on the wall behind the stove and I ran and got the fire extinguisher but I didn't know how to use it. I tore everything off the top of the extinguisher until there was nothing left. So I ran out the open garage door and grabbed a hose and put it out that way. So, make sure you have fire extinguishers in shop, 2 isn't too many. Don't forget to read the instructions. Lesson learned. What a genius! Oh, I almost forgot, don't start fires with denatured alcohol, not smart…..
 

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I had a piece of #0000 steel wool sitting on my work table from another project. I set up my 14" metal cutoff saw to cut some steel rod. This thing showers sparks out when cutting metal. I had just made a cut and noticed a flame out of the corner of my eye. The sparks apparently set the steel wool on fire. I didn't know that steel wool burns, but it does, and it doesn't take much of a spark to set it off. It was dry and did not have any oil or chemicals on it.
 

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My dad (used to be a technician for Union Carbide/UOP, was responsible for all kinds of experiments and stuff) drilled many things into my head when I was younger, one of them being that ANYTHING burns when it gets hot enough. Since the individual strands on steel wool are so fine, it doesn't take as much heat as you might think to get em to that point. The current from a 9V battery is enough (put a steel wool pad somewhere safe like a clean concrete floor and touch a 9V to it)
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
if you take a pile of sawdust (fine dust) and try to burn it, it just smolders for days. when my kids were teenagers, they would have bonfires in the back yard and have friends over. they would always get a five gallon bucket of sawdust and while sitting around the fire they would grab a fistful and throw it at the fire. the fireball was unbelievable. you would think you threw gas on the fire. the kids would do that off and on all evening until the bucket was empty. what a bunch of pyro's. it was controled and harmless though.

russv
 

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Funny you should mention that. Yes it can smolder but it burns well too if the conditions are right. This past week I've been putting a shovel full or two in my wood stove every tiime I throw some wood it. I place the wood on the remaining embers so the the top is flat and put the sawdust on top. Once the door is closed and sealed the embers get the wood burning in a minute or two and the sawdust starts to burn too. By the time the wood is gone so is the sawdust, no smoldering pile. But that's due to the stove. It's controlled combustion by the amount of air that is let in and burns really efficently (EPA certified I believe) so the fine sawdust doesn't cause a runaway fire. Been working very well. I could never do that with my old stove, I'd land up with a smoldering pile of sawdust, but this one burns more evenly.
 

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About 12 years ago we had a roofer put a new roof on our over 100 year old 2 1/2 story victorian home. We were gone for about a month during the time he was working and got back just about the time he finished. I could not have asked for a better job. the only problem was it had snowed the night before and the next morning he was using a blow torch to dry out a small flat roof and set the house on fire. As we stood outside in the cold watching the firemen trying to put out the fire, which was a total loss (home, garage, shop), he keep saying "don't worry I have insurance". You guessed it, no insurance. The big part of the problem was us. Before he started we asked if he was bonded and insurured. He stated that he was but did not have the papers with him at that time. We said "that's OK we trust you". Famous last words.
 

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jockmike2 you shoud have been in my shop class. I had the local fire department come out every year and put on a demonstration of the use of fire extinguishers. They taught the PASS method.

P = Pull the pin

A = Aim at the base of the fire

S = Squeeze the trigger

S = Sweep back and forth

I bet any of my students that saw the demonstration would be able to put out a fire today because each of them got to put out a fire. Once you have done it, it's not nearly as scary.

The school district had a man that inspected every fire extinguisher in the district every year. Each one was emptied and recharged every five years. He was glad to let my students empty them for him!

Jei'son I used to do the steel wool 9v battery demonstration for my students when I taught them about the different types of fires. Most extinguisher are ABC. Metal is a D class. It was a real eye opener for the kids.
 

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Bill, I wasn't aware of a D class, so my ABC's won't put out a fire of that type? Like steel wool? Not that I'm planing on having one but would be good to know.

And here's something that I haven't quite understood, tools made of magnesium. Back in chemistry class magnesium lit easily and burned like a banshee, hot and fast. So I'm thinking, hate to have a router like that go up in my hands, but obviously it must be an alloy of some sort that won't do that. I hope. ;)
 

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Curt,your ABC will not put out a class D fire, might make it worse. D class is metals that will burn. Takes a special extinguisher that uses dry powder not to be confused with dry chemical which is what most ABC extinguishers use.

Yes magnesium will burn. So will lithium. We are starting to have those in our shops. However, to start such a fire typically takes metal shavings or fines. I guess as long as you don't start grinding down your router housing, you will be ok.

Had a friend that had a job sawing magnesium on a bandsaw for an aircraft parts manufacturer. The magnesium shavings caught fire which spread to he block he was sawing. They did not have a D class fire extinguisher. The magnesium burned through the bandsaw all the way to the floor before the fire dept. arrived.
 
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