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4-4-2013 Orange NH - Build up of soot in pellet stove burned house to the ground?

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by Don2222, Apr 23, 2013.

  1. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    Hello

    That is the firefghter's speculation?
    http://www.wcax.com/story/21877391/pellet-stove-sparks-nh-house-fire
    More details :
    http://ratethisdirtbag.com/index.php/pellet-stove-may-have-started-nh-fire/


    Posted: Apr 04, 2013 5:14 AM EDTUpdated: Apr 07, 2013 5:00 PM EDT
    By WCAX News - bio | email
    [​IMG]
    ORANGE, N.H. -
    It appears a pellet stove sparked a blaze that destroyed a home in Orange, N.H.
    Bill Williams and his wife returned to their modular home on Private Way around 6 p.m. Wednesday to find it filling with smoke.
    By the time firefighters arrived it was fully engulfed. The couple's dog was rescued from the home and one of the residents was treated for mild smoke inhalation.
    Firefighters speculate that built up soot in the stove fed that fire.

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  2. sinnian

    sinnian Minister of Fire

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    A lot of things can go wrong with a modular home........
  3. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    Also I have seen sparks fly out of short horizontal venting that can easily start a fire. I still do not understand why that is ok? ?
  4. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    "Firefighters speculate that built up soot in the stove fed that fire."

    I wasn't aware that soot could burn. Creosote, yes, soot, no?

    The soot could have been a problem, but could it feed a fire?
  5. SmokeyTheBear

    SmokeyTheBear Minister of Fire

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    Burn pot build up due to ash/soot clogged venting can cause burn back and a hopper fire.

    Lots of information in the little blurb, not.

    That ratethisdirtbag site needs a bit of work to say the least I rate it at -10 out of 10.
    will711 and heat seeker like this.
  6. Snowy Rivers

    Snowy Rivers Minister of Fire

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    For sure, a pellet stove can cause a fire if not properly cared for.

    As far as the short horizontal vents, I suppose anything is possible, but after having used 3 of them for nearly 20 years, I really doubt that these were the cause.

    A pellet stove thats allowed to get skunked up badly and thus not burn clean, can certainly creosote up a chimney to the point that a stack fire can erupt.

    I have also seen the mechanical cabinets sooooooooooo full of pellet dust, cob webs and other combustibles, that a fire could start inside the stove and then spread.

    Without some hard data, its only speculation as to what happened.

    The large Whit that we now have was purchased from a party used, and the word was, that it needed repair, as the fire would go out.

    Opening the stove up revealed at least two inches of dust, dirt, cob webs and debris covering the entire inside of the mechanical cabinet.
    Futher, the ash traps were totally plugged full of ashes, to the point that the stove could not get any air pulled through the fire pot.

    This was a worst case of neglect.

    If anything would have sparked inside the cabinet, there certainly could have been a serious fire.

    Far too many people seem to have the idea that a pellet stove does not require anything other than dumping in pellets and walking away.

    We clean our stoves regularly, and its amazing how much crap accumulates inside the cabinet.


    Snowy
  7. smwilliamson

    smwilliamson Minister of Fire

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    Or a seem in a wall...if the firemen knew pellet stoves then they would realize that soot build up doesn't make a pellet stove go poof!
    SmokeyTheBear likes this.
  8. Lake Girl

    Lake Girl Minister of Fire

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    Reporters don't always get the story straight. However, poor maintenance would be indicated if the stove/exhaust was clogged with ash. Hard way to learn a lesson though...
  9. Snowy Rivers

    Snowy Rivers Minister of Fire

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    Sadly, the media gets stuff screwed up all the time.

    The real deal will likely never be known to us.

    I have seen sparks come out of pellet vent, but they are usually tiny and go out very quickly.

    In order to really formulate a good firm cause for the fire, we would need a lot of real time data, and its not here.

    Snowy
  10. lilly

    lilly New Member

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    As being the daughter of the family who lost thier home it was not due to lack of cleaning. Not only did my parents have the stove cleaned out just the week before with even new piping installed that was fired proof, every other day a full on cleaning is done by my father.

    The pellet stove had a malfuntion with the feeder for the pellets that was what was told to us by the end of this mess.
    Lake Girl and smoke show like this.
  11. smwilliamson

    smwilliamson Minister of Fire

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    Sorry for your loss here but I'll tell you and anybody...when a stove feeder malfunctions it usually stops feeding. In the wicked rare cases where the control by some weird freak of nature get stuck on say high...and the stove goes into too hot mode, there are one or more safety controls to shut it off. If you had somebody there working on it, what are the chances they jumped the pressure switch to get the stove to run. Replacing venting? Whatever for? Full cleaning every other day? C'mon...Something happened here and I'll go to bat for the stove...it wasn't the stoves fault. User error, maybe. Unqualified hack not knowing what he was doing came in the week before and replaced some venting without doing a Level 2 inspection of the entire system...that's why you lost your home. betcha anything. If he cannot document a level 2 inspection, whoaaahh...he's as good as guilty.

    I'm like the Lorax...but I speak for the stoves.

    Hey Don...this is what I'm talking about dude! and they live in NH, why am I not surprised.
  12. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    Hey Scott

    I just replaced a Castle control panel and Interface Module. The problem was a shorted Triac that caused the auger to run continuosly and kept feeding pellets on high. The Engineer Pete at Ardism is aware of this issue, I talked to him. So a malfunction that keeps feeding pellets does happen!
  13. MountainSean

    MountainSean Credo Quia Absurdum

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    Let me just pipe in here and say...

    Yes stuck on high overfeed errors do happen. I have seen it on multiple control board for multiple stoves (although it is rare comparatively) however, the high limit switch or two should have shut that down. I am going to have to go with Scott on this and say that if the stove was "fully" serviced the week before this problem should not have happened, and something on the service end smells funny.

    To go to bat for the person who lost a home, they probably thought they were doing a full cleaning, but were really turning the stove off and brushing out the firebox, and dumping ashes. A true full cleaning is an hour by a professional (or more) and while what they were doing wouldn't have caused the problem it wouldn't have contributed to it either.
  14. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    X2, I agree. I did a test where I overheated the test shed with a stove. I got it up to 140 Degrees inside the shed. It was good test experience. I finally talked to a QC engineer at a stove manufacturer who helped explained the results of my test. The Fasco room blower has a thermal overload circuit that stops the blower when the temperature rises above 110 Degrees F. This of course exacerbates the problem because the stove kept going and the temperature rose inside the stove until it hit 250 Degrees F. Fortunately the high limit switch did kick out and shut the stove down. Nothing caught fire. It is possible but very unlikely that the high limit switch could also be shorted, however there are still other safety devices like the vacuum switch that would also stop the stove from running as soon as the exhaust blower dies. The vacuum switch has a diaphram that would let go under extreeme heat

    I usually spend 2+ hours on the cleanings and really go thru the stove and venting from stem to stern. If I was the consumer, I would be aware that some really cheap stove cleaning specials are not really worth it.

    However, it is just so unlikely that the stove would cause the fire by itself, something else must have contributed to it. In many cases it is combustibles being too close to the stove or hot ashes being where they are not under normal circumstances!
    Example1:
    Combustibles near the pellet stove
    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/...bustibles-near-the-exhaust.67748/#post-851061
    Example2:
    Ashes dumped in a pizza box!
    See details
    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/...a-box-on-the-porch-guess-what-happened.65539/

    In this case, the hypothesis given here may be from the fireman's experience with a wood stove where a build up of soot contains a high amount of creasote which of course is highly flamable and where wood stove flues typically run at higher temps from 500 Degrees to 800 Degrees. In the case of wood stoves, soot and creasote build up can absolutely cause a fire in the venting or chimney. In the case of pellet stoves, a build up of soot usually DOES NOT cause a fire. I have personally seen a pellet stove connected to a clay lined chimney that was not cleaned for 3 years and had quite a build up of PELLET Ash (I would not even say soot) on the inside walls of the chimney. The stove ran crappy but due to the lower flue temps such as 300 degrees AND the pellet ash does NOT contain creasote, there was not even a possibility of a chimney fire! In this case the stove ran crappy and just overfed wood pellets due to lack of good air flow and simply shut down after 12 hours of running even though the stove itself was clean! So I would not just accept the answer here that a build up of soot caused the fire, without knowing all the other factors and stove make and model and how it was installed!
  15. ScotL

    ScotL Feeling the Heat

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    It's even more unlikely that the pellets the stove was burning for fuel caused a fire yet I've seen that blamed, and believed too, by a fire marshal and an insurance company. That's like blaming an oil boiler explosion on water in the oil and then blaming the oil refinery.
  16. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

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    Dang you stove gnomes! They done it again.

    We all know these things are the handwork of stove gnomes right? in my experience, these things are rarely installation/maintenance/operation errors...

    and that's what we call sarcasm.
  17. Lake Girl

    Lake Girl Minister of Fire

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    Sometimes you go too far ... It could also be multiple failure points on the stove. Husband fought a fire at a bio-mass co-gen that was supposed to have multiple redundances. The engineers/builders on the phone kept on saying "It can't do that" but it did. In that situation we're not taking about a piece of equipment that cost about $2000-$5000.... but all the safety systems failed.

    Instead of jumping on Lilly, you should have asked what type of stove, model and age instead of essentially calling her a liar. Take a little longer to think before you type... Since you're in the service industry, it might be good to know if it is a potential trouble area... Might have inquired as to who serviced the stove and then explained about the service inspection levels and about certification. From her explaination, it seems like her family was trying to do the right thing in being diligent about service and maintenance. It doesn't save them from potentially unscrupulous people that are in your trade. You find those type of people in any trade... and usually the hard way.

    You know the saying about assumptions...
    CTguy9230, 343amc, smoke show and 3 others like this.
  18. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    X2, Being in NH has nothing to do with it. Large service Companies in MA or any other state that are fortunate to have one certified guy have many other techs who are not certified go work on the stoves. I think you mentioned that yourself Scott.
    sinnian likes this.
  19. Lousyweather

    Lousyweather Guest

    absolutely anything mechanical can fail, redundancies be damned. There's such a thing as lessening your exposure and risk, but even so, you still see them. Its not just pellets either, but wood, gas, and oil as well. These are fairly isolated incidents given the amount of units out there, but it would behoove us all, professionals/users/owners/salespersons, etc. to realize these things DO happen and they can even happen to folks who do service their stoves correctly. Did Lilly's serviceperson mess up? Was he/she unscrupulous? We wont ever know. Everyone deserves at least a little "benefit of the doubt" though, the homeowner, serviceperson, etc......dangerous to draw conclusions without all the details, that's for sure....
    Don2222 and Lake Girl like this.
  20. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    Hello

    Agreed, instead of pointing the finger we need to ask what can we all do to prevent these disasters. Loosing a home is the worst outcome.

    I had classroom and field training on different levels of fire extinguishing to prevent loosing a home or Biz regardless of what might have started the fire. The field training consisted of each of us taking turns putting out a fire with a fire extinguisher. Great training!
    Having a minimum of 2 extinguishers in a home gives the owner who in many cases is at the scene, a chance at saving their home. This training should be available at local fire departments but it is possible to find.

    My next door neighbor lost their home and everything in it even though someone was there when a pot was left unattended on the kitchen stove.

    Just having an inexpensive extinguisher that can be purchased at Home Depot is great insurance.

    I am in the process of updating one that I have.

    Attached Files:

  21. Lousyweather

    Lousyweather Guest

    yep, no guarantees even then....sometimes it best even just to get the heck out.......agreed its BAD to lose your place and all your "stuff", but the WORST would be to die inside while your place burns...
    Don2222 likes this.
  22. smwilliamson

    smwilliamson Minister of Fire

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    It's not so much the guys...it's the fact that there is no oversight or bench mark as to what a professional is. NOt to say a licensed guy will not burn a house down but in the process of licensing you learn, having work double checked, you learn..without any oversight anyone can go into business and claim they are a master, yes?
  23. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

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    Yes, That is True. That is why being a Dealer and Authorized Service Center is important! :)
    We have the Manuafacturer's Support, Parts and Training to get the job done right!
  24. Lousyweather

    Lousyweather Guest

    great....so, are you proposing yet MORE gummint oversight? After all, the gummint has proven SO proficient in the past of regulation....even in doing so, the hacks will still be out there, doing work cheaper than the pros because, well, they aren't carrying insurance, they have no licenses, but the homeowners will hire them simply because they are cheap and seem to "get the job done". After all, nothing untoward will ever happen to THEM, right? So, more government bureaucracy will certainly solve the problem.....pay some functionary who has no idea how to do anything but sign their paycheck and tell others what forms they have to fill out and what hurdles they have to jump through to satisfy requirements devised by people who again have no clue what they are doing....brilliant.
  25. smwilliamson

    smwilliamson Minister of Fire

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    Listen...government isn't evil. In America anyway, "we the people" make it what it is. An extra pair of eyes or another point of view collectively make make things better...or at least there is less probability of a problem. I learned a lot testing out for certification and a license. Not all inspectors are clueless, and though I or you may know more than them in a specialty field, the oversight and "red-tape" if you will slows the process down just enough to perhaps give pause and allow us as professionals to reflect on the job at hand. I have learned to take comfort in it. Accidents happen when you are always in a rush. If permitting issues make you slow down, perhaps there are less mistakes made along the way.

    It's not all "red-tape" and bureaucracy. It's a local Town government saying to it's residents...look, you can hire who you want to, or do it yourself but when you're done we're going to stop out and sign off on it. After all, if your house catches fire there is no guarantee that the fire won't impact the lives of neighbors and or first responders etc... The "live free to do whatever you want or die" mentality may be alive and well on an isolated compound somewhere but most of the homes I have installed in are located in the reality we call civilization.

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