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21-03-2018 | Issue 4/2018

Fire Technology 4/2018

Pinched Cord and Overdriven Staple Failures: Research on the Causation of an Electrical Fire

Journal:
Fire Technology > Issue 4/2018
Authors:
Cameron Novak, Michael Keller, Theresa Meza, James McKinnies, Erik Espinosa, Kristie Calhoun

Abstract

In the past, some fire investigators have determined the cause of a fire to be electrical in nature based, in part, on the presence of an electrical cord or cable found beneath a furniture leg or a cable wedged tightly under a staple. While fires resulting from these events are possible, the mechanisms that lead to these failures are poorly understood. In this paper, the results of four research projects are presented. The first three projects focused on the creation of a pinched cord failure under various current loads and pressures. In the last project, a typical nonmetallic-sheathed cable was damaged and then installed with an overdriven staple over the damaged location. In all tests, the cords and cables were subjected to current loads varying between 100 and 250% of the rated ampacity. The failure rate of pinched cords was approximately 1%, but required the use of overloaded circuits and pre-existing damage or special orientation of the cord under test. A critical factor worth considering with these failures, which is often not accounted for, is time. These failures may take weeks, months, or years to occur under normal conditions, although some investigators may assume they develop nearly instantaneously. The conditions of the circuit are also important, as the only way a failure developed in these tests was by operating the circuits in excess of their rated parameters.

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