Service Panel Started Fire

This house is 3 doors down from me. Local firefighters did a great job of getting everyone out. 2 adults, 4 children, 3 labs, and 3 cats all saved. One cat perished due to smoke inhalation. 3 cats had to have O2 and CPR to survive.

Asked if I could take some photos. Fire Marshall said that the fire started at the Service Panel. Can not make out type or anything else for that matter. Owner said it was rewired from K&N in the 60’s.

Owner stated that he smelled fire after a nap, went to the basement and saw flames shooting out of the panel. He was a former firefighter in Philly, and siad he has never heard of such thing let alone see it.

Just wanted to share.

Sure seems to me those conductors that came into the TOP of the enclosure sure look tight and angled…might be a product of the fire itself but they look VERY tight and not supported above the enclosure…

I can’t make out any brand that sticks out…if something hits me I will let you know.

That’s a commercial style 20", 200 amp panel. Westinghouse would be my guess. Fused main pullout, with branch breakers. I’d almost bet that they’re even bolt-on breakers. Got any more pictures?

This is all I could take while I was down there, I could hardly breath.
It did have a main pull out and breakers on bottom.

Here are some others of the basement fire.

Some others too.

Good pictures…Please let us know if they come up with a reason for this fire.

How many open knock-outs (wires without NM connectors) in the top of the panel? From the photo it looks like quite a few. I catch flack all the time from Realtors and sellers because I call out missing NM clamps on probably 7 out of ten inspections but I still call it as deficient. I will be showing them these photos of what a panel fire looks like. Thanks.

At this point, you’d just be showing them a picture of what a panel that was in a fire looks like. It’s not clear at all, to me, that this panel caused any fire. It may well have in some way, but not without some doubt. Unless somebody died, the investigation on fires like this normally start and end with “electrical in nature” and that’s about all the further they usually take it.

I take your point Mark. I am more referring to those who try to diminish the seemingly small “trivial” items we point out. They see them as annoying discrepancies and telegraph their contempt for such to the buyers often. They often never think past the obvious and take it to the next logical conclusion that someone could be killed by a simple item like a missing cover plate or an open junction box in a workshop. I often go into homes where there are half a dozen small children running around with numerous electrial discrepancies. I could probably retire early if I had a dollar for every Main panel I have found without a dead cover and the panel near eye level with a 6 year old.

Indeed. I’m glad you feel that way. It seems that home inspectors are the only group of people, other than electricians, who appreciate the importance of these “details” that most people find inconsequential. To that end, having these pictures in your arsenal might be a fine idea.

Noticed something weird, which makes me wonder something.

The insulation on wires is gone, above the panel, and along the SE’s length. Even far from the panel. However the insulation inside the panel seems partially intact.

Also looking at the SE cable, it looks like basic SE cable, not SER. With that much in the house, was there an outside OCP? Or even a disconnect?

This is purely a guess based on this observation. A fire started, then degraded the SE cable, which shorted and quickly overheated and burned up the SE cable exaserbated the situation.

Also, can I use these photos? I like to share with others about the importance of maintaining a ‘healthy’ electrical system.



Please share them with whomever.

The fire chief is a friend of mine and yes, it will be stated as caused by “electrical in nature”. He also told me that there was still some K&T wiring throughout the house, built in 1922. Insurance adjustor told owner that for only $120K they will have to rebuild in the next 6 months.

I will try to go back when I can to take some more photos. At the time I took them I could hardly breath in the house.

It looks like the service conductor on the left got ripped out of he panel, notice the hot spot at the upper left where the fire burned the hottest, none of the conductors above the panel are supported, and is that aluminum branch wiring I see? MBHG

I wonder where the panel cover went?