Life Alert - Outlet bursts into flames

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It's not natural, but for a variety of reasons, on rare occasions, catastrophic things go wrong. Today, we have Arc fault circuit breakers, designed to prevent this sort of thing from happening, and when they work, they do just that. This past Monday night, my brother in law called me and told me that an arc fault circuit breaker in his panel, burst into flames. Fortunately nothing but the breaker was damaged.
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My story might not be too applicable, but in 1980 I had a 1500 watt room heater plugged into a receptacle in a building built in 1930.
I had used this for several nights, maybe many, but this time, in the morning, for some reason I woke up and saw one or two inch blue flames coming from the hard rubber plug, or from the receptacle. Although continuing to lie down, I quickly spraing into action, to pull the cord out of the wall. I was reaching for the cord and the girl who was with me kept pulling my arm back, why I don't know. On my third or fourth try, she still hadn't given up, but I used more than the usual force needed to move my arm and it's good that I was stronger than she.
The plug got hot because the outlet wasn't springy anymore and didn't make good contact with the plug. The outlet had many coats of paint and I continued to use it without problem for a tv and iirc an electric blanket, but not the heater anymore.

instead it catches on fire. I guess I should keep the door to my breaker box closed.
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The outlet shoots flames, and so you keep using it. That doesn't sound intelligent.
--
Christopher A. Young
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On Wed, 25 Feb 2009 08:19:10 -0500, "Stormin Mormon"

Maybe not, but it's ok because I did even dumber things later.
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Jimw wrote:

On a clear, calm day here a few years ago, a tree fell on a the power lines higher tension wires shorting them out on the household wires. The surge blew all the surge protectors in my house and there were scorch marks around a few outlets. Fortunately all we lost was a microwave oven, not on a surge protector. There was no fire but if something was flammable around the outlets, there could have been.
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Jimw wrote:

You've heard of "Spontaneous Human Combustion?"
Electrical outlets DO burst into flames from any number of causes: oily rags, rodents playing with matches, etc. That's probably why electrical outlets are required to be in boxes.
However, the NEC or UL or whoever is in charge of this stuff left the front door open!
To be even more safe, switch and outlet plates should be at least as fire-retardant as the boxes and the holes in the boxes should be plugged with an inflammable substance like concrete.
Maybe teeny-tiny sprinkler systems...or Halon.
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    Remember that many outlets are not isolated, but are part of a chain so current may be going through the outlet even if nothing is plugged into it. If you have aluminum wire it can cause a great deal of heat and start a fire well below the rated capacity of the outlet. The same thing can happen to copper wire, but it is much less likely.
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I have seen the ad on TV, and my take is that it appeared to me that the flames suddenly arose from ignition of a flammable gas or vapor of a flammable liquid. As in my take is that the scene was staged to an extent beyond reality.
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com)
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