A Bump in the Road

Posted by Jeremy Walls | Labels: , , , , | Posted On Saturday, November 30, 2013 at 10:45 AM

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For the past six months, I've been out of the workshop. Yea I know...hard to imagine! On May 17th of this year, my garage caught fire, and unfortunately, I lost my entire workshop. Since then, I have worked with insurance to submit a list of every tool and screw I lost, so that I may replace them and have them covered. Now, as everyone tells you, be sure to take pictures of everything you have! I had thought about it and thought about it, but "never had time" for it. Well, the day came when I needed the pictures, and I didn't have them. Listing would have been much easier had I had them, but instead, I was forced to sort through more than a foot of ash and try to decipher what tools the molten pieces of plastic used to be.

View of my workbench and toolbox after the fire
So how did it start? Behind my workbench, there were only two outlets. On my workbench I had my drill press, sander, Dremel, and scroll saw plugged in. In order to accommodate all of the tools, I bought a heavy duty surge protector (encased in metal). And yes...it was a surge protector, not a power strip. The surge protector gave me 5 extra outlets, into which I plugged in my tools.With the two extra outlets, I switched out tools such as my dust collector, table saw, sander, planer, etc. With all of the tools being plugged into and unplugged from the two extra outlets, the prongs inside the surge protector began to weaken and bend inward. By bending inward, they began to arc across, generating heat. The surge protector then put more energy into insulating the "surge" and therefore generated more heat (not sure of the proper wording/explanation here, but you get the point). The result was a circular pattern of the surge protector overheating itself. Thus, the insides of the surge protector began melting. It then fell off of the wall to the ground and started the fire.

State fire marshal reviewing my
workbench for the cause of the fire
At 9 in the morning I walked through the garage before heading to the farm, and smelled something funny (I'll never forget the smell of an electrical fire now). I walked around and checked everything, even my surge protector. The light was still working on it, and the smell didn't seem any stronger around it, so I ignored it. I was in a hurry, so after checking everything twice, I took off. At about 10:30 a.m. I received a call that my house was on fire and I needed to come home immediately. By the time I got there, the garage was gone as well as a small part of the second story of the house. Later, I would be told by the state Fire Marshal that indeed the surge protector would appear to be working on the outside, even if the insides were completely melted.

I guess if you can take anything from this, please don't use surge protectors when you are plugging and unplugging often! They will wear out and have the potential of causing a fire, no matter how quality they are! They are generally fine when used with TV's and computers because once they are plugged in, the surge protector isn't touched. Although nobody reads the fine print, especially for surge protectors, it does actually say they are only meant for temporary use, up to 90 days. In that time, additional wiring should be added to the home/office (I know...ridiculous). Also, as mentioned before, please take pictures of all that you have. If not everything, at least photo the contents of your garage since that is where the vast majority of fires start. 

Upon rebuilding the garage, a total of 8 outlets on two different circuits were installed behind my workbench. I'm slowly getting all of my tools replaced and my workshop back in order. 

I only had one project survive the fire...and of course it was a cross I cut. Imagine that. 
God works in amazing ways.


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