Yesterday, in just a matter of minutes, I lost in excess of $30,000 in a 20 foot X 32 foot building, processor , lumber milling head and tools, wood working planers, saws . Although my propcessor was not a pre manufactured one, it was built reasonab;le well. There was one thing that saved a huge explosion from a barrel of methanol, and I know the exact reason, it all happened . I will put it here and maby it will save someone else some misery down the road.
The capaciator, on the harbor freight pumps seemed to malfunction on the 3 I had hooked up early in life. I would simply take the cooling blade cover off and give it a touch with the finger tip. I went out, turned on a heating element, started the pump, on my dryer tank, and came back in the houise, After a considerable time, my wife and grand daughter came in talking about the electricity going off twice. One of those outages that last only a few seconds. It must have happened while I was walking from the processor room to the house, a distance of about 300 feet, and in snow, avoiding mud puddles frozen over.
I went out a bit dis grumpled, not wanting to loose a motor, other wise reasonable confident the circuit breaker would do its job. By this I mean, I full well know the capicator, whose job is to store energy for an extra boost on pump start up, was not working. That meaning the motor was trying to start, burning upo brushes, wires etc, but confident the circuit breaker would do its job, heat up andd trip off.
When I opened the door, the wiring insullator was on fire about two ffet up, and and the pump itself was in flames, the capicator box on top, and at the pump imlet area, I had use a two foot section of the clear hose from thebottom of the tank, to the pump. I killed the electricity, thinking I could smoother the fire out, with some rags that where handy. That proved a failure, as fuel was now comming out of the dryer barrel, on fire, spilling onto the floor.
My thought at this point was to take water, not toput the flame out, but to wash it out the door away from the opposit door where a barrel of methanol was sitting. I ran , got my grand daught to go into another building for me, to turn on the water, while I git the hose. The hose failed as it had water frozzen in it. The flame had now moved into an area where 25 oil gugs sat containing gylicin, with the methanole in them, and they where only about 6 feet from the barrel of methanol. I abandoned that , getting clear, as I expected the methanol to literaly blow up.It didd not blow up with an explosion, as I expected it to. It was in a plastic drum, and I am thinking the flames burned enought of the barrel, letting it flow out to burn . Instead of being confined in a metal barrel, building presure and exploding.
While taking cover, I was thinking as quick as it explodes, I could get into the other half of the building, salavage , especialy my saw head for cutting lumber. There are two door 32 feet apart, so you can get a picture of the power involved here. I looked and flame was shooting out these doors ten feet or so, and prehaps fifteen high at this point. There is a 30 plus inch pine 124 feet from the building . the flame hit it with enought force and heat to set it on fire 25 feet up its trunk. This did not occur in ten minutes or so, it was a matter of a couple of minutes. Once it started, you might say it was lighting fast.
It was a huge loss, althought at one oint my life was very enrichened by it, I will get to taht in a moment. But just like any accident, no one thing caused it, It was a combination of events that lead up to it. One was a malfunctioning pump, I full well knew about. The circuit breaker, although all wired by me, and I wired all my two houses and two shops myself, failed. The wire was styandard 12 guage for 120, a fifteen or twenty amp breaker. Why it did not trip I do not know. I did have a faulty circuit breaker severall years ago, but it would trip, just looking at it. At this time there is no proveing or dis proving , other than when I turned it off, I do not remember feeling any heat build up, and it had not tripped.
Then we had had heavy snow for this area, for 24 hours, and had had several power outages. But needing fuel , not wanting to go buy it at a station, I just assumed the snow stopped during the night , the power outages and surges are over. Plus there is one more fault, and I of all should know just from my education, which is from the school of hard knocks. But I know from expierence on flight decks of air craft cariers, during Viet Nam, damm well what fire will do, and for this type of fire , have foam available. I have meant to go to Texaranaka, 75 miles away and set up proper fire fighting equipement for a long time, as we are very rural,but in total honesty, a toital lack of responsibility on my part. But as I said, no one thing, a combination of things leading up to a very distructive and for an indivual, extremely costly moment.
But in all things there are moments of job. I have two adopted Grand daughters 15 and 16, been with their papa since the day thy was born. I have always required them to work, according to their abilities at the age, since they could walk. There is / was not a thing here I built or made they have not been physicaly and mentaly involved in. They where both mentaly shaken by this and in tears. My sixteen year old said to me "papa , I know I complain when you say let's go get some work done, but I liked sawing lumber, making bio diesel, all these things you do. Other kids never get to do the things Elizabeth and I do with you, we have to rebuild it ". Elizabeth 15 said " I am sory I complain about working, I helped build all this with my own two hands, we have to rebuild it again.
Yes I lost a lot of moneny, I do not know where I will get the money to rebuild , replace it all. But two tenage grand daughters saying that makes me one of the richest men on this earth, shows me that my pholoposity about life is right, and that I must rebuild. My reasoning that out of desaster, huge gains in life can be made.
I hope by sharing the chain of events, that I think lead up to this, you will look your operation over, and if you see them occuring, take steps to avoid them, Bill C
I harp about safety all the time and this is why. Please be careful out there guys...........
That is all.
My friends call me Don.
"I always keep a supply of stimulants handy in case I see a snake, which I also keep handy" WC Fields
RIP Steve Price. A true friend and a tireless supporter of FTE
I had a fire on my processor but it remained small because I heeded Don's (Fabman) advice. I used nitrogen to remove oxygen from the tank while I am adding methanol and mixing and I NEVER leave it alone while it is mixing or heating. I keep a fire extinguisher nearby and always stay aware that something like that can happen.
That circuit breaker only knows that the circuit was drawing less than 20 amps so it didn't trip. The motor can burn all day and not draw 20 amps. After you rebuild, put another fuse on the motor (motor overload protection) that is close to the motor amperage (usually 115% of the motor full load current) The correct size is listed in the National Electrical Code (article 430) Glad you are all safe. Mine really scared me. I now grab a good book and "baby-sit" the thing while it is working.
93 F-250 7.3 Banks turbo, 3.5" exhaust 4" ram air K&N filter E40D 4.10. Pyro, boost, & tranny temp gauges. Tru Cool 28,000 GVW trans cooler. 100% BIO
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