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Burning Wires

 In my days as an Overhead Troubleshooter, I came across many crazy situations, here is one of many stories I have….

I get a call from the Control Center for a Fire Department request of burning wires in a house. When I arrived on location, there were two fire trucks, a Chief's car and a floor refinishing contractors van in front of the house. Walking up to the house, I see two, extremely nervous looking workers. In the house, I meet the Fire Chief who brings me down to where the problem is. You could smell burning wood but there, really, was not a lot of smoke. Walking into the living room, there is large hardwood floor sander in the middle of the room with its’ cord going all the way across the house. Following the Chief, and the cord, we go down the stairs into the basement to the electric panel.

I looked at the electric panel and see that the flooring guys had opened the panel and wired the floor sander into the main panel. It was a 220-volt floor sander but there were no 220 breakers, so they wired it to the main breaker, on the "LINE" side. No fuse protection!

As the workers were sanding, the floor sander had shorted out and with no fuse to blow, the cord started to burn. The cord burst into flames and made a nice burn mark on the floors, all the way from the panel to the machine. On the the wooden basement stairs, every step had a half circle hole burned into it. There was nothing left of the cord, it melted into a black burned groove, all the way across the wooden floor of the living room to the floor sander.

Because of the way the sander was wired into the panel, there was no way to turn off power to the cord. The only way to shut the power off was to pull the meter. But… all electric meters are locked in placed. So, the Fire Department had no way to turn off the power.

I told the Chief I would have to pull the meter outside to kill the power.

As we all start walking outside, one of the firefighters leads me away from the Chief and asked me, “Is it true that if you break the glass on an electric meter it shuts the power off?”  I answered, “No way, you have to pull it out!” The one firefighter looked at the other and shook his head and said, "I told you so.”

You can imagine what I found when I went around the side of the house? An electric meter smashed to pieces! With a laugh I called them over and showed them how it works.

You just know that the other guys on that fire truck broke that guy’s chops for a long time after that call.

Peter J McGrath - Troubleshooter; Senior Instructor

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