Another Steam Pipe Fire

Another Steam Pipe Fire

It has long been a well recognized fact that low pressure steam pipes are the cause of a large number of fires, but specific, well substantiated instances of such fires are not so numerous. A fire in the Wesley Block, Columbus, Ohio, on November 15, 1920, furnished an excellent illustration of the way such fires may occur. The building was a large brick structure of old style ordinary construction, occupied for mercantile and office purposes, including light shop craft work.

The fire was discovered under the second floor, and smoke was coming out from under the floor above, having traveled up the inside of partitions. Both floors were of matched tongue and grooved dimension lumber, and were covered with linoleum, which fact would eliminate the “dust and sweepings” theory as a possible explanation of the cause of the fire. Upon tearing up the floor it was discovered that woodwork around a steam pipe leading to an ordinary office radiator was on fire. Because of quick discovery and prompt action the fire was extinguished by the use of a 2 1/2 gallon chemical extinguisher.

An examination showed that no attempt had been made to insulate or protect the woodwork from the steam pipe. There were very evident signs of smouldering and charring on the under side of the floor, and on the floor joists for several feet around the steam pipe. This had apparently been going on for some time. The heating system is low pressure steam, installed about 25 years ago. If further evidence were needed to definitely prove that the low pressure steam pipe was responsible for this fire, it would be furnished by the fact that a similar fire occurred in the same building about 10 years ago.

Clearance and air circulation should be allowed between all steam pipes and woodwork.

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