ACETYLENE AND EXPLOSIONS.
EXPLOSIONS of acetylene are becoming so common as to render it necessary for insurance offices, bureaus of combustibles, and fire chiefs and fire marshals in general to take extra precautions to guard against them.
In France these explosions have been very frequent and very disastrous. In one instance, while brazing a generator which was believed to be perfectly free from gas, some workmen of Paris were very badly injured, as the vessel was only partially empty, and contained the mixture of air and vapor necessary for providing an explosion. In the same city M . Caron, a bicycle manufacturer, sold calcium carbide to supply the lamps of the wheelmen. This carbide was shipped in hermetically sealed tin cans in wood cases, having the top soldered on. While attempting to open this can in the usual way by using a hot soldering iron, he found it was not hot enough, and carelessly used the flame of a plumber’s lamp instead. The solder melted; but there had been enough moisture in the air inclosed with the carbide to generate some acetylene gas. and this was ignited by the flame of the plumber’s lamp. A detonation followed, and M. Caron, who was sitting on the can. was burned about the upper part of his body, and his workman was hurt by flying pieces of the can about the head and chest. At Fecamp a workman was similarly injured while soldering an acetylene gas holder, which had not been emptied. At Compiegne, in a generator factory, while a generator was being tested, the foreman left the shop for a moment, advising his helper not to approach it with a light. He was scarcely gone before the inquisitive workman lit a candle and approached the apparatus (the bell of which had been removed), and was killed by being struck on the head by a flying fragment. At the restaurant of M. Marignac, at Portet, in Haute-Garonne, the proprietor and another man attempted to clean a generator which had just been installed. He was removing the cover when an explosion occurred, injuring him seriously about the body and legs, while his friend had his right leg maimed. A cafe was destroyed at Lyons by a violent explosion due to the carelessof a boy who had neglected to close a valve on the generator, thus allowing the gas to escape into the room during the night all ready mixed for ignition by a candle in the morning. At Milan a foolhardy inventor looked for a leak in his apparatus with a lighted candle – and found it, but was dangerously wounded in doing so. While attempting to solder a generator containing a mixture of gas and air,two workmen of Chateauroux weie wounded by the resulting explosion. Again, near Toulouse, a tinsmith and his helper were endeavoring to make a generator work, and by their recklessness of consequences caused an explosion which killed both.
In Germany and England greater care is taken, and not only are the law’s provisions acted up to with greater exactitude, but the sevete penalties attached to their infraction are rigidly exacted.
In the United States there have been several bad explosions from this cause. At Rochester, N. Y., while working about the safety valve of a galvanized iron gas holder, the experimenter was dangerously injured, and a bystander narrowly escaped. It is said that the injured man was bending over the gas holder and was attempting to pull it out, evidently drawing air in at the same time, and forming an explosive mixture. The room was dark and a gas jet was burning above the apparatus, the cause of an explosion being thus not difficult to trace. Similarly, at Wilmington,Del., a boy was temporarily left in charge of a generator, and. finding the gas light growing dim, attempted to operate the apparatus. He is supposed to have opened the generator by unscrewing the cover, and to have taken a candle to examine its interior to sec where the trouble was. Naturally an explosion followed. Not very long ago the works of the United Slates Liquefied Acetylene Company, of Jersey City, were demolished completely by exploding cylinders of liquified acetylene. Although the coroner’s report has not yet been issued,the evidence seems to point to the fact that a flame was seen in the room before the explosion,apparently coming from a cylinder which had been partly filled with acetylene and blown out again to remove any air that may have been contained. This escaping gas must consequently have been ignited somehow, although the witnesses who could have told how were killed by the explosion. It must be remembered that acetylene gas is readily ignited by a spark,a lighted cigar or pipe, a red hot coal,or similar incandescent body,and that carlessness or ignorance of thesa conditions evidently has caused many accidents. After the first cylinder exploded, the burning gas generated such a high heat that the score of other filled cylinders exploded like a pack of gigantic file crackers. A boiler was projected through the air to a distance of 200 yards, and earth tremors were felt as far as Staten Island. At New Haven, Conn., during the past year there was a very destructive explosion of a flask of liquefied acetylene. The evidence indicated that there was a leak in the valve of the flask caused by a fracture,and the escaping acetylene was ignited by a match or candle used to test the regulators. The escape of gas was evidently larger than ordinary, causing a large development of flames, which heated the flask up to bursting point, and the shop was demolished by the lesulting explosion. At Paris an explosion occurred in the laboratory of Prof. Pictet of a similar cylinder, due to improper handling by an employe. During the spring floods in the West a fire was caused by the rising water reaching some cases of carbide and thus generating acetylene gas, the flames from which destroyed the house. In Philadelphia also some cans of carbide which had been ignorantly and carelessly thrown into some ruins, caught fire in the same way and caused destructive explosions and a fire.