Sun Oct 07, 2012 4:25 am
The phrase "Krispy Kub" pops up frequently in this forum. Have you safeguarded yourself from cooking a cub?
With fire safety week approaching, ask yourself if your shop and farm equipment are prepared for a sudden fire? I emphasise SUDDEN .
The majority of us have enough sense to keep our shops, barns, garages and work areas as safe as possible, especially practicing housekeeping skills we were all taught over the years to prevent fires.
I never expected to have a fire much less 2 of them, but I did... and not from what I consider a great amount of negligence on my part.
(I don't consider a wad of burning grease or rubber from torch work a fire).
My first fire occurred in the shop after removing the head from a gas inline six cylinder engine.
I thought I'd save some time by cranking over the engine to get rid of the coolant that was laying on top of the pistons instead of soaking it up with rags.
I temporarily connected the battery cable and cranked the engine over several times with the starter, neglecting to notice the fuel line previously disconnected from the carb spewing fuel all over the engine with every stroke of the pump.
Sure enough something sparked, possibly the loosely connected battery cable, and within the blink of an eye, the engine and hood were fully involved.
As I stood in disbelief of what I had just done, a co worker grabbed a dry chemical extinguisher and solved the problem before anything had a chance to melt or paint to blister.
The job was to change a leaking head gasket. It took me about as long to clean the powder mess up as it did to remove and replace the head. So much for saving time.
I was extremely lucky. No damage was done because of the speed of extinguishment due to many strategically placed fire extinguishers around the shop.
Lesson learned: Don't try that stunt again and fire extinguishers close to your work area are a fantastic idea.
Fire number 2 was many years later. Picture for yourself the middle of winter, blizzard conditions, sub freezing cold temperature, the darkness of night. The task at hand was to weld a snow plow angle cylinder back onto its frame.
I had no room in the shop so I was working on the pad in front of the door. There was no way to do a permanent job due to the working conditions and without grinding and cleaning the metal. This was to be only a temporary tack weld to get the truck back on the road.
What I didn't know was the idling truck had a gasoline leak running down the side of the engine and slowly dripping on the snow covered cement pad. I didn't see or smell it and as you can imagine, was extremely surprised to lift my mask to see a roaring ball of fire extending from the ground up into the engine compartment.
I was able to grab the extinguisher from the floor of the truck as I shut it off before dousing the fire.
It was extremely negligent of me not to bring out an extinguisher, but it was only going to take a couple seconds to do a quick tack job. With snow on the ground who would think a spark resulting from a few seconds of stick welding could catch anything on fire that couldn't be snuffed out with a glove or a rag? Or so I thought.
I wasn't so lucky this time. I didn't have to clean up the powder mess because the truck was a beater, but I did have to order some plastic pieces and a couple reservoir caps that didn't survive.
Lesson learned: Never burn, heat or weld without an extinguisher at your side. I follow this protocol to this day.
I hope I am done lighting fires in anything but my grill (which is usually a challenge on most days).
I often wonder why sometimes a gallon of fuel won't get anything but smoke out of a campfire or brush pile but just get near that floor joist in the basement with a propane torch while you're sweating a pipe and... you know the rest of the story.
Getting back to the topic of fire safety in your shop or garage. Fire extinguishers are cheap... Lessons are very expensive.
Protect your valuable cubs along with all your power equipment with an extinguisher mounted to each unit in addition to at least 2 of them in each building you do mechanical work in. (Remember fire # 1, no torch or welder was involved).
Your kitchen and the doorway to the engine room in your home should also be stocked with extinguishers.
I can't stress enough how important it is to have extinguishers of the proper type and size within SECONDS of reach if needed. Both my fires would have been disastrous had fire suppression not been administered within about 10 seconds of ignition. I'm not exaggerating when I estimate 10 seconds... Maybe even closer to 5 seconds.
I don't consider either shop fire I started a result of gross negligence or carelessness, however they did happen and there was nobody to blame but myself.
I have learned a a lot in my lifetime by observing other peoples mistakes or learning about mistakes shared with me after the fact.
I would like to share my mistakes with as many people as possible through this forum who are willing to listen and learn.
Fire extinguishers are cheap insurance for keeping what you have instead of losing it all.
Change those smoke detector batteries this week or when the time changes.
Sun Oct 07, 2012 7:09 am
Good advise you can't have Too many Fire Extinguishers in the shop.
Sun Oct 07, 2012 7:54 am
Good write up! I have one down I'm my garage, but after reading this I think I'm going to buy a second, bigger, fire extinguisher today on my trip into town. Accidents happen quickly and as you stated you can never be too careful.
Sun Oct 07, 2012 8:34 am
Thanks for posting. After a couple of close calls, I have fire extinguishers everywhere that I have tractors parked. I have tractors parked in several locations in a couple of different buildings and each one has a fire extinguisher close by. Of course I have one also in my shop. After living through a couple of close calls like you, I agree with you and Steve, you can't have too many fire extinguishers!!
Last edited by ricky racer on Sun Oct 07, 2012 5:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:27 am
I will add to that. due to sinus problems I have a lousy sense of smell, and 35 or so years ago we were installing new 2 way radios for an electric co-op. To keep from interrupting their work anymore than necessary we were working nights, and sleeping during the day. It was getting close to time for them to start, and I was finishing up one of the trucks, and the longer I worked the worse I felt, until I was getting pretty sick and wobbly. I was standing outside the door getting some air when one of the guys from the co-op walked up and when he looked at me asked what was wrong. I told him something inside the shop was making me sick. He went inside and quickly came out looking a little pale. 2 vehicles down from where I had been working soldering wires, disconnecting and reconnecting battery cables, etc. was a truck that had been leaking gasoline in the floor all night. A couple of us stood by with fire extinguishers while they opened the doors and pushed the truck outside, then proceeded to hose the floor down. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.
Mon Oct 08, 2012 2:25 pm
Any one of us who does mechanical work as a professional, on the side, or as a tinkerer/hobbyist must face the reality of accidentally starting a fire due to gas, oils, greases, and other combustables inherit with doing mechanical work.
Looking around the shops of professional technicians, you will see fire extinguishers at every door, every work station, and probably on at least every other steel beam holding the building up.
If you contract mechanical work out on your equipment, look around the service shop to insure your pride and joy is protected while it is out of your sight.
Back at home you must be especially and continuously on guard whenever fuels are out of their containment vessels, such as when splitting a carb for rebuild or maintenance.
That little bit of gas spilled carelessly from the carb can cause a headache if accidently ignited and an even bigger headache if you don't have an efficient way to quickly extinguish it.
Most people have been taught good housekeeping skills to avoid the obvious mixing of fuel with air then adding a source of ignition completing the "fire triangle". Keep all 3 elements of the triangle separated as far away as possible.
Unfortunately, I have experienced twice the completion of all 3 sides of the fire triangle quite by accident.
Successful firefighting removes one side of the triangle, in most cases removal of the air or oxygen snuffs the fire out.
Diesel equipment can be just as dangerous as gasoline powered engines under certain conditions.
I clearly remember old timers lighting their Zippo's then reaching down into the tanks of their over the road equipment to check their fuel level. Attempt that stunt today and we'll be reading about it in the paper tomorrow.
When atomized, fuel oil will flash just like gasoline fumes and LP or CNG vapors.
Today's diesel equipment returns super heated fuel under pressure to the tanks so you have a potential bomb waiting in the form of a fuel oil fog to be sparked off unless the utmost care is taken to prevent it.
Be safe guys.
Tue Oct 09, 2012 11:39 am
While shopping at one of my favorite places, the "Transfer Station", better known as the dump, I found a 10 pound CO2 extingisher. Everything looked good so I had it serviced. Cost about $20. It now watches over the shop. I just need to weight it every so often, maybe give it a new coat of 2150. Best part, if I have to use it, it cleans up after it's self!
Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:44 pm
One thing to remember about CO2 extinguishers, is that unless in a pretty confined space the gas drifts away pretty quickly, and while there is no clean up, it does not stay put to keep the fire out if it is still hot.
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