A Fluorescent Light Fire

A Fluorescent Light Fire

A fire that involved a fluorescent light installation described in the U. S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps Bulletin (November, 1949) prompts the CEC to say “Watch Your Fluorescent Light Installations.”

The fire occurred on the fifth story of a manufacturing building which bad just been remodelled and air conditioned, and recessed light fixtures of the hot cathode type had been installed between joists in a suspended ceiling.

The defect in this installation was caused by laying batts of fiberglas insulation loosely across the tops of the joists, resting directly on the lighting fixtures. This permitted contact of the asphalt-impregnated paper which covered the batts with the fixture and concealed spaces were formed between tbe joists where tbe fire could burn and spread out of reach of the sprinklers.

An electrical breakdown of a ballast unit on top of one of the fixtures caused overheating, which ignited the paper. Flames spread to the joists and heat progressively opened 77 sprinklers under the roof overhead, but the fire was out of reach. Firemen removed sections of ceiling and used six small hose streams in an effort to kill the fire but flames kept breaking out. In half an hour the fire subsided, and sprinklers were shut off. Flames then broke out vigorously, and sprinklers had to be turned on again. Firemen finally bad to cut through the roof to get at the hidden fire.

In reconstructing the ceiling, after the fire, the insulation was packed between the joists to avoid hollow spaces, the paper covering was removed where it would be exposed or in contact with fixtures and no insulation was placed on top of the fixtures.

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