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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Had a house fire caused by one of my techs. My tech told me that the can of gas exploded and then shortly after the gas ignited. Has anyone heard of mapp gas can exploding during use. Is it possible the can of gas exploded during the fire? Has anyone had any experience with this situation? The can was blown out on the bottom and the top half was split don the seam. The fire investigator told me it looked like a can failure. Anyhow, what do you do with someone who just burnt down a house? Just looking for opinions. He has been working for me for 2 years. Luckily the house was vacant and no one hurt. Do I get rid of him completely, and make him loose everything he's got,(theres not too many companies hiring around here)? Do I just let him do estimates and remove him from service calls pending more investigation results? Do I allow him to continue working and believe it was strictly freak accident?
 

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Don't let him go till you have reasonable cause, if fire investigator said it looked like a can failure, then it's not your techs fault, it was beyond his control, you might lighten his work load until more exclusive results come about. Sounds like a job for the MythBusters.
 

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Plumbing and Gas SCO
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In the same position I would look back at how the tech has been over the last 6 months or so. Has there been alot of buildup to this?



I really believe in this pyramid. It has been shown to be accurate-ish. It is made for large scale jobs, but does show that there is a direct link from minor issues leading to large problems.

If he has shown alot of signs of cutting corners and taking risks, then it's time to say goodbye. If however he is a good, safe, thinking employee, keep him. He will be alot more cautious now.
 

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residential service
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Yeah, I don't know how you fire a guy IF the manufacturer's product failed.

I hope you had him drug tested immediately following the incident.

I don't know what psig those bottles are filled to but it I don't think it would be very high. Probably not enough to make a paper bag explode (I could be way wrong) which I think would mean that the fire entered the bottle somehow.

Was he injured?

I have had torches flare up on me so that fame came pouring out of the nozzle vent but this has only ever happened during cold weather. It is extremely unnerving the first time or any other time for that matter that it has happened. Sometimes cleaning the nozzle helps and sometimes not but I've never had one blow up though.

Now if something like this happened and the user panicked and dropped the torch and the resulting fire caused the bottle to overpressurize resulting in it exploding, that is another matter. I would discuss this carefully with the fire investigator before I tried to lay it at the mapp gas supplier's feet.
 

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Master Plumber
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Firing him to soon without all the final reports could make him your boss.

I had the torch hose metal adapter break off on me years ago and catch the carpet in a state office building on fire. Thank GOD that I had a extinguser with me.

These things can happen, just be carefull before firing a guy for something out of his controll.
 

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The likelyhood of a bottle failing as you mentioned is around slim and none...

More likely is the result of flame impingement on the container containing a liquified gas... This is referred to as a BLEVE Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion. http://gaussling.wordpress.com/2007/04/29/bleve-boiling-liquid-expanding-vapor-explosion/ The container heated as a result of either the fire of the structure or a fire from a leaking torch. The liquid in the tank is heated resulting in an increased vapor pressure that may occur faster than relief devices can control, at the same time the steel container is heated to a point where steel becomes weak. At this point the tank fails and the gas in the tank is released... Boom!

Here is a video of one on a grand scale!


You need to review this individuals safety attitude, and determine if it is indeed a thing where he has become increasingly reckless in his attitude and behaviour or if it is a freak of chance. Any body can have a bad day! But If he's inviting them then something needs to be done.

A review of the safety requirements for soldering operations should be done.
1 Require a servicable fire extinguisher to be on hand at the actual site of the soldering work. Out in the truck is too far away!
2 Water spray bottle on hand and used to soak materials that can present a problem
3 Flame protective Mat on hand and used when needed. Many plumbers use an old piece of smoke pipe. This is unacceptable as the galv. steel pipe conducts the heat right through to the other side while the flame protector does not.
4 Cool Gel offers phenominal protection against heat for surrounding materials. I remember when the stuff was first introduced The manufacturers rep at a supply house demo day sprayed a $100 bill with it then invited one of us to "torch" the bill. I believe everyone that saw that bought some.
5 Review the need to check for a draft ino a wall opening or up a stud bay and how dangerous it can be.
6 There is also a heat stopper putty that is available. This will stop heat from conducting down a pipe and can be used to block openings.
7 Call your insurance carrier and ask for help from their loss prevention staff in providing training. They came to our shop and set up life fire training in the use of fire extinguisters... No Charge!

With all this available I'm not going to say it never should happen but the rate should be much lower than it is...
There really is no good excuse these days for charred wood near a sweat joint or, a fire at a jobsite.
 

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I myself have never heard of something like that happening. But to say it is the employees fault I can not. It may or may not had been.
 

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Long time ago............... there was a plumber here that burned down a house, he claimed it was cob webs that started the fire, under a house and the web fire moved fast withing the crawl area, is it possible, I myself have torched cob webs before but they never caught on fire.
 

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I have even soldered against old joists and never set fire to them. As a matter of fact one night we wanted to burn some old wood laying around. After several failed attempts I got my mapp torch. I could not start a fire with it to save my life. Seems it kept charring the wood so bad it would not ignite. Finally got it going by splintering some 1/4 plywood and keeping the torch away from it a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for input

I just met with him to talk about the problem, and have also discussed with some of my peers and old lady. Several said fire, the old lady (fiance) said fire without thinking (but she is always negative), but I talked with one of the guys who I first started to plumb with (he is been plumbing for 50plus years) and he convinced me that I should keep him and see what the insurance company determines and if he will be insurable. The plumber has been one of my top sales guys and just recently has been having some marriage problems. His problems convert to my problems. There have been some call backs on his work, but nothing catastrophic like this one, relatively minor stuff. Call backs on service plumbing seem to be unavoidable, I would probably say the call back rate is somewhere near 5-8% (though many callbacks turn into additional work). I even read an article about rotorooter one time that said one office was nearing 10% callbacks rate.

Anyway, the video was cool, an extreme of what can happen. The crazy thing about this whole thing was that the walls of the room were unfinished and uninsulated, the ceiling was open, in a concrete floored utility room. The only part of the job that required any soldering was stubbing copper off the water heater and installing a tee for an expansion tank. The rest of the house was going to be replumbed with CPVC. All the old galvanized pipe had been removed and the closest wall was 10" off the water heater tank.

Mike
 

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www.DunbarPlumbing.com
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Years ago I ran over a mapp gas bottle, one of those yellow ones.


It fell out of the truck on the passenger side, one of the doors was missing. :eek: I was in true ******* form back then, heh.
It had a Koenig-Rawson utility bed on it and the age had a lot to do with the door falling off. Wasn't rust, just wear. Truck came
from Atlanta Georgia and belonged to the cable utility company.

Anyway, I felt the "bump" thinking I killed the cat, started backing down the driveway and saw a yellow tank in front view.


It was collapsed down about 2" and I was pretty afraid to pick it up. I think I picked it up and chucked it into a dumpster or something, can't remember where it went.

Was just surprised how it was able to withstand so much weight and not explode.


Post pictures of the house and the bottle that went bad.

We need to see it so others can learn from this disaster. Be thankful there wasn't human life involved that was affected.


I'm curious to know if maybe the bottle got heated somehow. In order for a flame there has to be oxygen and I'd doubt that there was oxygen in the tank to create an explosion. It would have to be external affecting the internal in my assumption.

I run with MC tanks only, could never get used to the smaller tanks and lack of control with the flame.
 

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I had a bottle explode in my hand about 1 1/2 months ago. It came out where the nozzle meets the regulator. Luckily I didn't get hurt.

I've seen the bernzomatic push trigger torches not go out when you let go of the trigger. We had one lit while it was being stored in the flam locker. The flame was located in the hole of the nozzle where the air gets sucked in.
 

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Never had a Mapp bottle catch fire, but set a b-tank a blaze due to a loose connection on the regulator. That will definitely pucker your butt-hole.

I would wait and see all the angles before I made the final judgement on firing the tech. I have never burnt down a house but I have flooded a few places and tore up a few pieces of equipment in my day. Freak stuff is going to happen when you do work, its unavoidable.
 

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I can't speak for MAPP bottles but when an aerosol can goes in a fire that's exactly what it looks like. The bottom is blown out and the sides split open. It takes a lot of pressure to do that, the manufacturer would have had to screw up something pretty bad for the can to just pop like that. It is possible expecially if the flame somehow got back into the can.

Acetylene torches do go up with regularity. The local welding shop has a bunch of burnt up handles on display. They're all a result of worn out equipment, holes in hoses, missing, damaged o-rings on tips, etc.
 

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I would keep the guy for now if possible (limited responsibilities) until after the investigation is over. He is much more valuable to you with the insurance company as an employee than a pissed off ex-employee. If the report comes back it was his fault than let him go.

As far as bottles go I lost a B-tank out of the bracket on my roughin truck 30-years ago while at the dump. The valve broke off and spilled a full tank of acetylene. I felt like an idiot carrying the broken bottle out to the middle of no where so one of the other trucks didn't ignite it. In retrospect I was an idiot for moving the broken bottle.

Mark
 

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I can't speak for MAPP bottles but when an aerosol can goes in a fire that's exactly what it looks like. The bottom is blown out and the sides split open. It takes a lot of pressure to do that, the manufacturer would have had to screw up something pretty bad for the can to just pop like that. It is possible expecially if the flame somehow got back into the can.

Acetylene torches do go up with regularity. The local welding shop has a bunch of burnt up handles on display. They're all a result of worn out equipment, holes in hoses, missing, damaged o-rings on tips, etc.
Thats exactly my point in my post above. The torch leaking and catching fire if one thing... Maintain your equipment!

The bottle blowing is a whole other thing. That is caused by a bottle being exposed to fire. Possibly the result of a torch failure but the bottle blew because of the fire!
 

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I have never had problems with a mapp tank, I once had a slight leak on a goss torch where the hose met the handle and while soldering in an area where there was little ventilation I got a sudden boom that was as close to a spritual awakening as I have ever come. I was not hurt, but if a plumber knows anything it is the number 2 business, this was resulted in a number 4, Not to mention a hairless arm and one trimmed eye brow.

Luckily it was the bosses torch. We didn't even know it was leaking, we never smelled it and the hose appeared to be secure, Could he have had a leak on the threads where his torch met the tank?
 

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about fifteen years ago i was working for a great guy in st. louis. we had this skiddish guy working for us and one day he caught a house on fire. while my boss was on his way to the house after this guy called he was sitting on the curb scared to death. afraid he was going to get fired and an ass chewing and who knows what else. when my boss pulled up and saw the fire trucks and dale sitting on the curb with his head in his hands he walked up to dale and said well i guess there is nothing else you can do here and sent him to another job. i respected him for that. some times :censored: happens and if your guy is a decent employee and when he has an accident and owns it and you dont drop the hammer on him you end up gaining your techs respect, not because your his boss because you treated him like the imperfect human that we all are. but if these things happen on a regular basis its time to cut the cord. i dont know about you guys but the things i remember best are from the mistakes i made on the way.
 

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Your boss is a bigger man than I, well I am a woman, but you get the point. As a small business owner, we could lose everything we ever worked for if a home burnt down. I'd imagine the insurance premiums would go through the roof and the company reputation down the drain.
 
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