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-   -   Fire in the attic and breakers didn't trip. (https://www.electriciantalk.com/f2/fire-attic-breakers-didnt-trip-157498/)

Smileyboy 05-10-2016 05:31 PM

Fire in the attic and breakers didn't trip.
 
:eek:
My company installed an electrical panel 2 years ago at a home and last week we got a call from the owner. Something was smoking in the attic. By the time we got there the Fire Dept had been called....

Long story short an old bx cable blew a hole in the side of its armor and started the hole thing. Fortunately we did 0 work in attic. I'm just curious as to why the breaker didn't trip.. We are suppose to get a Siemens rep out to the job and an electrical engineer. I'm hoping they don't try to been the blame on us.

Anathera 05-10-2016 05:43 PM

15 Attachment(s)
Bx doesn't have a ground usually except for the sheathe itself and the little wire, if you guys did work below and back fed it and happened to interrupt that ground (ie plastic box or 4 square that wasn't grounded) they might try to pin it on you guys saying you broke the ground that would have caused the breaker to trip, if you didn't mess with the entire circuit you should be fine.

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telsa 05-10-2016 05:45 PM

The physics are obvious: the current flow never exceeded the OCPD's threshold.

Plan B, it's defective.

A tiny arc that gets a blaze going may not necessarily impose enough of a load to trip the c/b.

Bad make-up along that circuit path could mean that current flow is choked -- prior to the fire zone. So the current flow never trips the breaker -- while still being plenty enough to get a fire started.

( Electrical arcs have local temperature peaks of 5,000 degrees and more -- they are plasmas -- tiny versions of your friendly arc welder. So even a tiny spark// arc can beat any match -- especially in a dried out wooden attic with local temperatures past 100F. )

Defective breakers -- they're out there, too.

Take your pick.

Anathera 05-10-2016 05:48 PM

15 Attachment(s)
Please say it was on an arc fault breaker, I think that would make many electricians days around here

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Smileyboy 05-10-2016 06:15 PM

Ha I wish it was an arc fault. I was just doing some poking around in the home. I looked at our old junction box we used for the new wires, can't seem to find anything. I wonder if there's somewhere that there could be a combo of 14 and 12 wire in the attic.


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Smileyboy 05-10-2016 06:16 PM

Fire in the attic and breakers didn't trip.
 
Just makes me incredibly worried


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Anathera 05-10-2016 06:44 PM

15 Attachment(s)
Like tesla said as long as the breaker was sized right it probably just fell in the gap and didn't cause the breaker to trip because it didn't pull enough. Even if it had all it would take is a split second flash between flash and trip that would cause the fire

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khfiei 05-10-2016 10:19 PM

I have never seen an undamaged BX explode mid-cable, in 30 years in NYC (the world capital of BX), unless the armor was damaged (armor nicked with screw, etc.). I did see, once, a long run of old double-armored BX that did not have a drain wire in it get super hot under a short circuit condition at the far end of the run and not trip the fuse (you could actually follow the BX route beneath the ceiling below from the heat). Did the fire inspector identify the failure point on the cable? I have seen dozens of BX cables in attics spliced without boxes with no armor continuity. Most were poorly spliced, taped, no wire nuts, etc. and the connections had failed.

Smileyboy 05-10-2016 10:29 PM

He thought he was able to identify the source. He wasn't sure. If you ask me, I thought it was the aluminum cloth covered oven wire..... That seems to be the hottest spot in the attic... The BX cable seemed to be casualties because they were in the same area.... But, I'm not fire inspector

khfiei 05-10-2016 10:56 PM

Did the fire inspector note any open boxes, splices, etc? Unless some physical damage event occurred prior to the fire, electrical fires almost always start at connections, a failure of which could start a fire without tripping a circuit breaker. Did the homeowner turn on a large electrical load before the fire? There's no shortage of combustible materials in attics that can ignite from hot spots at connections. Unless the fire damage was total, he should have been able to note open boxes, splices, etc. Either way, if you didn't do any work in the attic, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

RICK BOYD 05-10-2016 11:02 PM

what breaker
 
was it on a federal pacific breaker ?

Smileyboy 05-10-2016 11:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by khfiei (Post 2788585)
Did the fire inspector note any open boxes, splices, etc? Unless some physical damage event occurred prior to the fire, electrical fires almost always start at connections, a failure of which could start a fire without tripping a circuit breaker. Did the homeowner turn on a large electrical load before the fire? There's no shortage of combustible materials in attics that can ignite from hot spots at connections. Unless the fire damage was total, he should have been able to note open boxes, splices, etc. Either way, if you didn't do any work in the attic, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

There were no open J boxes in the attic. Either way, I'm curious.

Smileyboy 05-10-2016 11:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RICK BOYD (Post 2788609)
was it on a federal pacific breaker ?

It's a Siemens panel

just the cowboy 05-11-2016 11:51 AM

Seen many sparks without trip
 
I have seen many sparks without tripping the breaker, and it only takes 1 spark and the right conditions. I just had a kickback with my circular saw and cut the cord, sparks no trip.

Smileyboy 05-11-2016 02:35 PM

Kind of interesting the fire inspector said none of the breakers were tripped.... But all the breakers were or in the off position when he did his inspection. After I explained that to him, he felt like he needed to "investigate" more.


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meadow 05-11-2016 02:36 PM

BX cable does not have an EGC and its armor acts like a heating element.

meadow 05-11-2016 02:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by just the cowboy (Post 2789642)
I have seen many sparks without tripping the breaker, and it only takes 1 spark and the right conditions. I just had a kickback with my circular saw and cut the cord, sparks no trip.


Breakers work on a time current curve. A short circuit must last long enough to trip a breaker, especially if its outside of a breakers magnetic trip curve.

Smileyboy 05-11-2016 02:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AcidTrip (Post 2789946)
BX cable does not have an EGC and its armor acts like a heating element.



Why do you say that?

meadow 05-11-2016 02:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smileyboy (Post 2789970)
Why do you say that?


Because BX does not have a bonding strip. All new AC cable comes with a bonding strip.

frenchelectrican 05-11-2016 03:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smileyboy (Post 2789938)
Kind of interesting the fire inspector said none of the breakers were tripped.... But all the breakers were or in the off position when he did his inspection. After I explained that to him, he felt like he needed to "investigate" more.


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That part kinda got my attetion ...

Did anyone touch the breakers before the fire inspector have look the panel?

I am not too suprise if someone did turn all the breakers to off postion..

If that was a fuse it maybe easier to show the evince of it..

If they cant find out why breaker did not trip ..

I know series arc fault as other mention .. All just take one right spot to light up...

Majoty of breakers and useally most fuses will not catch series arc fault ..


Did any chance that house have gas line in attic ?

That some case it can cause it ..

Keep us posted if you find more info on this one..

sbrn33 05-11-2016 03:07 PM

I am interested to see what the rep says.....

Bad Electrician 05-11-2016 04:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smileyboy (Post 2787865)
Just makes me incredibly worried


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My firm test circuit breakers if you can send me the circuit breaker I will test the circuit breaker and can send you a letter starting if the circuit breaker meets the manufactures Time Current Curve (TCC)

daveEM 05-11-2016 04:36 PM

I think all residential fires are electrical. Well the odd time a guy puts out his smoke in the flower pot. Or burns the siding off his house with his bbq.

Insurance company on a witch hunt?

Edit: I see you are from the US. I suppose someone is going to get sued and the homeowner will never have to work again. Stress and all. 10, 20 mil settlement.

Good place America. They should remove the bottom feeding lawyers tho.

Smileyboy 05-11-2016 05:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by daveEM (Post 2790266)
I think all residential fires are electrical. Well the odd time a guy puts out his smoke in the flower pot. Or burns the siding off his house with his bbq.

Insurance company on a witch hunt?

Edit: I see you are from the US. I suppose someone is going to get sued and the homeowner will never have to work again. Stress and all. 10, 20 mil settlement.

Good place America. They should remove the bottom feeding lawyers tho.



I sure hope not.
I was told insurance getting a fire investigator was standard procedure.

Smileyboy 05-11-2016 05:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bad Electrician (Post 2790258)
My firm test circuit breakers if you can send me the circuit breaker I will test the circuit breaker and can send you a letter starting if the circuit breaker meets the manufactures Time Current Curve (TCC)



I'm not sure that I'm "allowed" to get inside the panel.

Bad Electrician 05-11-2016 05:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smileyboy (Post 2790322)
I'm not sure that I'm "allowed" to get inside the panel.

The rep takes the CB and it disappears into the bowels of his firm,

If you can at a later date contact me, I'll test it simple.

Did you do any branch circuit wiring in the house?

Smileyboy 05-11-2016 05:29 PM

0 branch circuit wiring. I'll contact you.


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khfiei 05-11-2016 08:08 PM

SOP for FDNY is to turn off all circuit breakers when they enter a fire building; most NYC services and disconnects are inside building, no outside service disconnects.

Also, BX is a trade name used for type AC cable and does have the bonding strip in it so the armor can be used as a ground. Some very old BX (like type mentioned in my previous post) did not have the bonding strip in it. The bonding strip provides continuity to the armor and reduces the inductance of the wound armor so shorts like the one noted will trip the fuse/breaker.

Smileyboy 07-21-2016 07:37 AM

Thanks for all the help guys. This thing is finally over, I'm not at fault. I can now breath.
However the homeowner wants me to do all their electrical! Now a new fight begins with the insurance company and getting them to pay.

I was told by the restoration company they're getting over $100k. I gave my measly bid of $5kish to the adjuster and he scoffed and said he thought it wouldn't be more than $2k [emoji50][emoji848]. What?! Any tips on dealing with the insurance side of things? How do you write a bid/invoice to get paid?


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99cents 07-21-2016 08:02 AM

In my limited experience with insurance companies, your story sounds about right. Insurance companies don't like permits and inspections, they like repair jobs. If the structure was built in the 1940's, they want it fixed so it's compliant with the 1940 code. I did restoration work on an old shack that had smoke damage from a kitchen fire. They stripped the interior down to bare wood for inspection and I wasn't even allowed to add a smoke detector.

Smileyboy 07-21-2016 08:24 AM

I pulled a permit. They can't get around that. [emoji4]


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sbrn33 07-21-2016 08:32 AM

Just stick to your guns with the with your quote. But make sure you let the owner know you are billing him and not the insurance company. It will be way easier to go after an owner than an insurance agent.

oldblue 07-21-2016 08:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 99cents (Post 3032922)
In my limited experience with insurance companies, your story sounds about right. Insurance companies don't like permits and inspections, they like repair jobs. If the structure was built in the 1940's, they want it fixed so it's compliant with the 1940 code. I did restoration work on an old shack that had smoke damage from a kitchen fire. They stripped the interior down to bare wood for inspection and I wasn't even allowed to add a smoke detector.

I'm sure they'd still sue you for not pulling a permit and not bringing the job up to proper standards, if something happens again.

HackWork 07-21-2016 08:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sbrn33 (Post 3032978)
Just stick to your guns with the with your quote. But make sure you let the owner know you are billing him and not the insurance company. It will be way easier to go after an owner than an insurance agent.

Yup, and make it clear that your payment is due on completion of the work, not 5 months later when the insurance company finally sends the check.

99cents 07-21-2016 09:00 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by oldblue (Post 3033002)
I'm sure they'd still sue you for not pulling a permit and not bringing the job up to proper standards, if something happens again.

I checked with the AHJ and repair jobs don't need a permit. They didn't like it and I didn't like it. I'm not getting involved in that kind of garbage again.

sbrn33 07-21-2016 09:30 AM

Around here it would need a permit just to get power turned back on.

Smileyboy 07-21-2016 09:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sbrn33 (Post 3033098)
Around here it would need a permit just to get power turned back on.



Yep here too.


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99cents 07-21-2016 09:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sbrn33 (Post 3033098)
Around here it would need a permit just to get power turned back on.

Come to think of it, they allowed me a permit only to restore power. It was during my early days of being in business. Today, I would have walked away. Really sketchy and I would be extremely reluctant to do any more insurance work.

khfiei 07-21-2016 10:49 AM

Around here, we work for and get paid by the restoration company. They, like any general contractor will squeeze you for any penny they can and tell you to restore to the previous condition, even though its not up to current code. If the restoration, repair, whatever, is a gut, we're required to do all the wiring to current code (they just don't want to hear that because it effects their profit).

220/221 07-21-2016 06:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smileyboy (Post 2787754)
. I'm just curious as to why the breaker didn't trip.. .

Well, a toaster doesn't trip a breaker :thumbsup:

It doesn't take 20+ amps to get something red hot.


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