Dust collector fire

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Forum topic by Mainiac Matt posted 04-24-2019 05:33 PM 1775 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mainiac Matt

10050 posts in 3780 days

04-24-2019 05:33 PM

Topic tags/keywords: fire dust collector

And this, boys and girls, is what happens when you don’t empty your DC bags….

As some of you know, I work at an industrial packaging plant and we now have 40,000 sq. ft dedicated to manufacturing crates and pallets (and another 9,000 sq. ft. for pallet repair/recycling).

Last night at 5:30 the dust collector for our panel shop (servicing a CNC router and an automated panel saw) caught on fire. The fire was first observed by a truck driver parking a trailer on our back lot, who had just seen the production manager 5 minutes before, so he called his cell. The production manager (who used to be a full time fire fighter) was the first on the scene. The flames were spouting out around the blow-out panels ~6 ft. in the air and were about to get into the eaves. He hit it with two dry chemical extinguishers and directed people to shut down the blower, which was still pumping air.

The fire was contained to the DC bag house when the fire dept. arrived. They popped the blow-out panels on the outboard side with a cordless impact driver and dowsed the innards with foam (AFFF to be precise).

IMO, the fire was very close to getting into the roof and if it had, we may have likely lost the building.

Oddly, the second person to become aware that something was off, was the panel saw operator, who could sense that the DC suction to the panel saw suddenly increased markedly. He was walking outside to look at the DC just as the production manager arrived on the scene.

Things that went wrong…
>Nobody checked the bags at shift turnover.
>The panel saw operator did not investigate why his DC suction was low and continued to operate his saw.
>The first fire alarm pull station actuated did NOT trigger the alarm.
>A fork truck driver came around the building a minute later and somewhat panicked, jumping off his truck while it was still in motion, to run get help.
>Production manager saw smoke coming over the building as he approached, yet didn’t call 911 until he got there and observed the fire (though this is debatable).
>Access the the DC disconnect was obstructed by the flames and someone had to run back inside the building to shut down the unit.

Things that went right…
>Production manager kept his head, called 911, fought the fire with extinguishers and directed others. He probably saved the day.
>Fire department responded very quickly and promptly put out the fire in the bag house.
>We have working fire extinguishers in many locations and they are inspected monthly (actually inspected, the forms are not just checked off by someone in the office).

All things considered, I think we got lucky. The production manager was key to quickly getting the situation under control and he just happened to be at work late (well, he’s always there late… he has a really sucky job).

This is the $8,200 temporary system that will be delivered tomorrow morning so we can keep the shop running.

It’s a 20 HP Dustek 4-bag single stage system (for inside use). We have used several similar Dustek systems over the years and they are solid and robust.

It will keep us going until we can get our head wrapped around the permanent solution.

Lessons learned….
>Think safety in everything you do.
>Don’t cut corners with your equipment or fire safety kit
>Know how to de-energize equipment quickly (label your breakers and know where they are)
>If something seems odd… check it out. Don’t just blow it off.
>Call in fires immediately
>Act! don’t panic

Thanks for looking…. be safe out there.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

19 replies so far

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Mainiac Matt

10050 posts in 3780 days

#1 posted 04-24-2019 05:45 PM

Additional note…

All 8 DC bags were over stuffed, and the bag house was filling up.

So the blower was just churning air and likely (IMO) created the heat that triggered the fire.

The only machine in operation that was serviced by the DC was our SELCO panel saw, which only cuts new panels. Mostly CDX plywood with some OSB, Masonite and MDF. So no nails hitting the saw blade to cause sparks.

The fire melted some of the bags and that’s why the DC to the SELCO suddenly improved, as air was now flowing again.

I’d be very appreciative if any of you professional fire fighter types could chime in with thoughts or observations.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View HackFabrication's profile


232 posts in 1164 days

#2 posted 04-24-2019 05:53 PM


-- "In the end, it's all Hack..."

View DS's profile


4103 posts in 3872 days

#3 posted 04-24-2019 06:33 PM

That could have been soooo much worse.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS

View Jerry's profile


3577 posts in 3100 days

#4 posted 04-24-2019 06:37 PM

Thanks for the reminder Matt.

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View firefighterontheside's profile


21610 posts in 3309 days

#5 posted 04-24-2019 07:13 PM

Matt, I have to defend the prod managers decision not to call 911 jus.t because he saw smoke. Being an ex firefighter I’m sure he knew the difference between investigating the source of the smoke and calling immediately. The fire service runs so many false calls for smoke that people see. In general that’s harmless, but it can lead to situations where a true emergency occurs, but the needed units are handling a false call. There is a risk to the responding units and all others on the road with them and to have an accident happen for a false call is hard to accept. We are always trying to determine what a true emergency is and respond appropriately.

Does the fire department do safety inspections at your plant. We are not always well received, but we do check things like pull stations, access to breakers and disconnects, fire extinguishers.

In hind sight, something other than vinyl siding might be called for in that location.

Do you guys have an emergency plan? Posted exit plan for employees? Training for those who might use extinguishers? One thing to know is when to give up firefighting attempt and worry about safety. In general, fire extinguishers are sized so that a person uses one and if it doesn’t work, it’s time to retreat. He was trained and thats a different story.

Definitely a mess, but could have been so much worse, as you well know.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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Mainiac Matt

10050 posts in 3780 days

#6 posted 04-24-2019 07:29 PM

The fire service runs so many false calls for smoke that people see.

A very good point. I don’t like to play arm chair quarterback. I only mention it because our company policy is to call it in immediately. I wish I could say this was our first fire….. more like our 5th. We had the conveyor motor on a huge grinder fry itself and ignite a sawdust pile. Have had two smoldering fires in the dust collection piping in the woodshop (have since upgraded the system, and have properly sized pipes so they don’t fill up with chips and also have a GreCon system now)

Does the fire department do safety inspections at your plant.

We have a good relationship with them and they come up here frequently. Like most departments in small town New England, they are a call/paid department with two full time professional fire fighters and the rest “volunteers” who are paid a modest stipend per call. So when they come up, it’s primarily to train their people how and where to respond. We do consult with them on new construction, change of use, etc… but only when the code guy requires it.

Do you guys have an emergency plan? Posted exit plan for employees? Training for those who might use extinguishers?

Absolutely yes, yes and yes. We squirt bottles into a training fire (fuel in a large metal tub) every year at the company picnic. It’s actually one of the more fun things we do. We usually pick the shy ones.

Thanks for your reply Bill… I was hoping you’d chime in.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View mahdee's profile


4291 posts in 3220 days

#7 posted 04-24-2019 07:43 PM

I have to remember to cough a few times after I leave the workshop. i would hate to catch on fire while asleep. :)


View firefighterontheside's profile


21610 posts in 3309 days

#8 posted 04-24-2019 07:57 PM

I agree with the call it in immediately policy. Dispatchers are trained to dispatch equipment appropriately based on the info they are given. If your guy calls and reports a small amount of smoke from a machine, that may be a 1 truck response. On the other hand, fire shooting out every orifice of a machine indoors will be a full first alarm.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View firefighterontheside's profile


21610 posts in 3309 days

#9 posted 04-24-2019 08:00 PM

If it’s something you’d like, invite the FD to come out and do a fire safety inspection. They should be willing.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Festus56's profile


4284 posts in 2680 days

#10 posted 04-24-2019 10:01 PM

Matt, From all my years in a FD I would agree with Bill.

We had some fairly large fires that only got that way because they did not want to bother us with small stuff. On more than one occasion I had to tell folks that if we were not needed when we arrived on scene we had steering wheels on our trucks that we could just go back home.

A facility like yours should have a immediate call procedure with all the different hazards. Like bill said our dispatch did a great job of relaying the needed info to us depending what the reporting party told them. We all liked to tour facilities in our jurisdiction for training and knowledge of the operation if we had a call there.

-- Mark -- Really we're not crazy, just "Limited Editions" -- --

View pottz's profile (online now)


25649 posts in 2436 days

#11 posted 04-24-2019 10:31 PM

wow i know all too well about dust collector fires,i work in a large lumber yard with a collection system 20 times that size and we have had fires 2 times over the last 30 years,cause unknown,could have been a spark from hitting a nail or a cigarette getting sucked up(smoking no longer permitted on premise) last time i could smell wood burning but nobody detected any smoke.the fire broke out later that night.probably just sat and smoldered for it has a built in automatic sprinkler system.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View Redoak49's profile


5573 posts in 3441 days

#12 posted 04-24-2019 11:21 PM

Based on your description of what went right and wrong, I think you need a major review and retraining of all involved.

Are procedures adequate?

Do you have fire or heat sensors on the dust collector or video monitoring.

You came too close to losing your building.

View ibewjon's profile


2930 posts in 4245 days

#13 posted 04-25-2019 12:57 AM

I installed a fire sprinkler head above my DC at home years ago. Just in case.

View robscastle's profile


8542 posts in 3656 days

#14 posted 04-25-2019 10:58 AM

I saw a massive pallet shop fire on the News I am glad it was not yours.
Cleaning them is a messy task but somebody has to do it.

Only about 20 sizes smaller than the size of your unit!

-- Regards Rob

View mike02719's profile


306 posts in 5238 days

#15 posted 04-25-2019 12:24 PM

Truly a scary situation. As one of the previous LJ’s said, maybe time for a professional fire prevention outfit to come in and recommend a video, smoke, fire , detection system for you. The cost may be offset somewhat by insurance rates, but will be better in the long run. Thanks for the post. It was a different situation than those we usually see here

-- Mike, Massachusetts

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