The Herald Sun reports that “two firefighters and a third person were treated for burns after sparks from a grinder started a fire in Tasmania’s north” yesterday. Sadly, this is something with which I have some experience.
A number of years ago, I was trying to build my first trailer — a sad steel-and-plywood affair that I hoped my poor little Honda CRX would drag all the way to Florida from Texas — preferably without destroying all my Earthly belongings inside. A friend was helping me, and neither of us had any real welding experience — and we were using a stick welder.
Needless to say, we were doing a lot more grinding than we were welding. To make a long story short, I managed to set the decorative grass along my Father’s driveway on fire.
I was grinding away, and all of a sudden I see flames down by the side of the driveway. It was summer, of course, so all the grass was dry. “No problem,” I thought and turned my back to see where to find the garden hose.
When I turned back (about 2.5 seconds later) a good 10′ of the grass was on fire, and it was quickly moving toward the house — and all the dead lawn around it. I reached into the open hatch of the CRX — where I’d thankfully stashed a small extinguisher — and unloaded it at the base of the fire.
With the fire out, I had time to think about how incredibly stupid it was to grind with all that dead grass around. (I also had lots of time to clean the sulfurous yellow powder our of my car, since it drifted back and coated every surface.)
Two lessons learned: Grinding is a fire hazard. If you’re grinding with anything flamable around, you’ll find this out the hard way. Don’t. Secondly, keep a fire extinguisher in your car. I bought mine after I watched a BMW burn to the ground because of a simple under-hood fire started by an overheated alternator (with bad bearings). If either of us had been carrying an extinguisher, it’d have been a minor annoyance — instead of a write-off.
If you’ve got the bucks, get a Halon model. It’s way easier to clean up, and much less likely to damage engine or electrical components. But if you can’t afford a nice one, just get one of the $15 cheapies and strap it down good in your trunk. Just remember: They only spray for about a second, so aim for the base of the fire and don’t waste any.
Firefighters Burnt in Power Tool Fire [Herald Sun]