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Malcolm, John D. Opposing Views. Fire and Arson Investigator. Volume 42 Number 4. June 1992.

Abstract: In this article, the author addressed issues raised in the December 1991 issue of Fire and Arson Investigator, written by Thomas Shefchick. The author of this article disagrees with his colleague Shefchick on some instances that Shefchick dismisses as fire causes. The author, John Malcolm, thinks that the over-sized lamping, dirt and debris near electrical equipment, and electrical arcs could all be causes of fires.

Shefchick stated that over-lamping of light fixtures does not cause fires. Malcolm disagrees, citing his twenty-five years in the electrical consulting field as evidence. He claimed that oversized lamped light fixtures could start fires if suitable conditions for combustion exist. One example of a light fixture known to start a fire is the recessed incandescent light with over-sized lamping. When this type of light is located adjacent to a wooden ceiling or another combustible material, it has the potential to become an ignition source.

Another point Shefchick raised concerned dirt and debris in electrical equipment. He stated that there is always debris surrounding electrical equipment. Malcolm disagreed referring to the NFPA standards on the subject, which say that electrical equipment should not be stored near combustible debris.

Malcolm also disagrees with Shefchick about electrical arcs. Shefchick states that short circuits cause fires, not arcs. Malcolm offers an example in which an arc does ignite a fire. The meltdown of a 480-volt switch gear with phase to phase faults does cause arcing which could eventually cause a fire.

For more information, contact:
International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI)
300 Broadway Suite 100
St. Louis, MO 63102-2808
Phone: 314-621-1966

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