Heavy Equipment Fire Investigation Case Study

Fire investigation finds root cause of destruction to agricultural equipment.
Location
Birmingham, AL
Year
2023
Service
Insurance Services Consulting

Heavy Equipment Fire Investigation Case Study

Title:

Description:

Heavy Equipment Fire Investigation Case Study

Fire investigation finds root cause of destruction to agricultural equipment.
Location
Birmingham, AL
Year
2023
Service
Insurance Services Consulting

Introduction

At Vista Engineering & Consulting, we pride ourselves on providing thorough and insightful engineering investigations to uncover the root causes of accidents and failures. In a recent case, we were called upon to conduct a fire investigation for damage that occurred in a portable woodchipper shortly after engine service was performed (Figure 1). What we uncovered through our meticulous examination sheds light on the importance of proper maintenance and fastener integrity in equipment safety.


equipment fire

The Fire Investigation Incident:

The woodchipper fire in question sparked concern as it took place a few days after engine repairs were conducted in the field. Upon reviewing service records, our team discovered a troubling history of oil leaks involving hydraulic and motor oils, hinting at potential mechanical vulnerabilities.


Investigation Findings:


Our investigation revealed crucial details about the mechanical state of the woodchipper. Firstly, a rear engine cover was found dislodged from its intended position (Figure 2 a & b), exposing a significant area of electrical arcing damage along its bottom edge (Figure 3).




This damage was traced back to contact with the positive battery cable, which had been severed by arcing during the fire (Figure 4).



Further examination uncovered a concerning pattern of fastener issues. The engine cover, designed to be secured with five bolts, showed signs of neglect (Figure 5). Three of these bolts were missing entirely, while the remaining holes were worn and damaged, compromising the cover’s stability.



Additionally, we found that similar fastener deficiencies were present in other engine covers, including the front cover and the top engine cover. These oversights indicated a systemic problem with maintenance practices, posing serious safety risks to equipment operators.


Root Cause Analysis:


Through careful analysis, we determined that the root cause of the fire lay in the dislodgement of the rear engine cover during machine operation. Vibrations from normal use likely loosened the fasteners securing the cover, leading to its detachment. Upon falling, the cover contacted the energized battery cable, damaging its insulation and creating a short circuit pathway to the chipper structure. This, coupled with nearby combustible materials, such as plastics and oil residues, provided suitable conditions for a fire to ignite.


Conclusion:


The woodchipper fire serves as a poignant reminder of the critical role that proper maintenance and fastener integrity play in equipment safety. At Vista, we are committed to conducting thorough investigations that uncover underlying mechanical issues that lead to catastrophic losses. If you’re facing a similar challenge or need expert analysis, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Project
Equipment Fire Investigation

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