Professional Engineering & Investigation Services

Anderson Engineering & Investigations are professional engineers experienced in manufacturing engineering, product and process failure mode analysis, electrical, mechanical, and forensic engineering including fire investigation services.

When you need answers you can trust, Anderson Engineering & Investigations will provide you with timely, understandable results.

The Case of the Dog Food Stealing, Fire Starting Mouse

Blaze Fire Investigation is now know as Anderson Engineering. (updated 6/28/17)

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Can There Ever Be Too Many Holiday Lights?

Blaze Fire Investigation is now know as Anderson Engineering. (updated 6/28/17)

It is that time of year again where many people have decorated for the Holidays!  Twinkling lights are shining on rooftops, trees and all over the lawns of our friends and neighbors.  Most people know that one person that makes it their mission to have the most beautiful and colorful yard in the neighborhood. If you don’t, you have probably seen the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation staring Chevy Chase!  What lots of people don’t think about is how much power all of their lights consume and how much is too much for the extension cord, outlet or electronic device that they have the lights plugged into.

Every electrical device has a voltage and maximum power rating. The amount of power it takes to light a string of holiday lights varies depending on the type of light and the number of lights in that particular string. For example, a typical 300 light string can consume 72 Watts of power.   How many Watts of power are your lights, holiday decorations and devices rated for?

Our investigators at Blaze Fire Investigation and Anderson Engineering were involved in an origin and cause investigation of a holiday light device that synchronized the twinkling of the lights with holiday music. This particular device had a maximum power rating of approximately 400 Watts. Burn patterns pointed directly at this device as being a possible cause for this fire.

Our team of origin and cause experts and engineers examined the evidence, performed testing on exemplar products and were able to determine that the origin of the fire was internal to this holiday lighting device.  Testing results showed the over wattage of the device could cause a component inside the device to fail in an unsafe manner and ignite the flammable plastic housing of the device without tripping any circuit breakers in the house or blowing any fuses in the device or holiday lights themselves. 

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Resistive Heating Origin and Cause Uncovered

Blaze Fire Investigation is now known as Anderson Engineering. (updated 6/28/17)

CASE STUDYSITUATION:

A Blaze Fire Investigator is called to the scene of an apartment fire. The area is nearly knee deep in debris and objects have been moved around, changing the scene. There is a clear fire pattern observed on a wall, pointing to the floor. A sofa is burned on one side and a window air conditioning unit is visibly melted.

OUR INVESTIGATION:

This investigation needed to begin with an interview with the tenant. With his home unlivable because of the fire, he was not easy to find but when located through a relative, he was cooperative. The tenant was able to visually recreate the room and the placement of furniture that had been disturbed during the course of the fire fight. Although one would assume that the air conditioner would not be used on a cool day, the tenant was able to share that because the multi-family building was usually warm, that he did, in fact, leave the air conditioner on while he left to go to an appointment.

Our investigator carefully sifted through the debris and discovered a fire pattern from the window pointing away from the wall. While the window air conditioner exhibited damage on its exterior, it did not appear to have damage that emanated from within the unit. There were badly damaged extension cords and a power strip with numerous inputs on the floor.

In consultation with forensic engineering colleagues at Anderson Engineering of New Prague, our investigator was able to determine that the origin of the fire was one of the extension cords and the cause was resistive heating, or too much power traveling through the cord.

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Blaze Fire Determined Origin and Cause Without Joint Investigation

Blaze Fire Investigation is now known as Anderson Engineering. (updated 6/28/17)

CASE STUDYSITUATION:

A fire started in the kitchen of a restaurant. Many artifacts were present that could possibly start a fire including food warmers, microwaves, gas oven and stove, the building wiring system, and light fixtures. A fire suppression system was also in place and may or may not have functioned as designed. Calling in representatives for all of these appliances and electrical systems would be costly and may not be necessary. Was it possible to determine the cause of the fire without destruction of artifacts in the event that a joint scene investigation is warranted?

OUR INVESTIGATION:

An electrical engineer from our parent company, Anderson Engineering, was called in to provide additional forensic expertise to examine the debris and artifacts. Working in tandem, the fire investigator and the electrical engineer went through the debris. The Fire Department had examined building components, pieces of wiring and light fixtures as part of their investigation and created a separate artifact pile. In conjunction with a fire suppression expert, the fire investigator and electrical engineer concluded that the fire suppression system did not malfunction. The appliances were examined one by one.

The gas stove had the remains of a gray melted plastic material on it. Through interviews with the restaurant staff, it was determined that at the end of the day, the cook routinely used a plastic bussing bucket to carry soap and water to the griddle for cleaning. The bucket was usually set on the gas stove beside the griddle during cleaning. The pilot light provided a continual source of heat even when the burners were not lit.

The cause of the fire was the plastic bussing bucket that was left on the stove. The water evaporated and the plastic came to combustible temperature and ignited.

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