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December 13, 2016 Previous day Next day

Welding torches were involved in 37% of non-home hot work fires but only 29% of such home fires. Hot work is an important part of manufacturing, repair, renovation, construction and demolition activities. Professional contractors and do-it-yourselfers can get in trouble when they don’t follow the basic safety precautions. 

NFPA’s new report, Structure Fires Started by Hot Work, shows that in 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 4,440 structure fires involving hot work per year. These fires caused an average of 12 civilian deaths, 208 civilian injuries and $287 million in direct property damage per year.

I suspect that those who regularly conduct hot work or oversee contractors who do so will not be surprised by the statistics from the report.

Forty-two percent of hot work fires occurred in or on homes.

Welding torches were involved in one-third (34%) of total hot work structure fires. Cutting torches were involved in one-quarter (24%), soldering equipment in 18%, burners in 11%, and heat treating equipment in another 11%. The leading types of hot work equipment involved in fires are different in homes than in non-home properties.  As the graph shows, soldering equipment was the most common type of hot work involved in home fires while welding torches were the most common in non-home fires. 

Home fires involving hot work were most likely to start in either wall assemblies or concealed spaces (15%), and bathrooms or lavatories (14%). For non-homes, the peak areas of origin were exterior roof surfaces (12%) and process or manufacturing areas (9%).  The majority of hot work fires started when the work was done too close to something that could catch fire.

One-quarter (25%) of home hot work fires began with the ignition of structural members or framing; 22% started when insulation ignited. Fifteen percent of non-home hot work fires occurred when flammable or combustible liquids or gases caught fire; 10% started with exterior roof coverings or framing; another 10% began with structural members or framing; and 9% started with insulation.

The report also contains descriptions of hot work fires from NFPA Journal and OSHA's accident investigation summaries to provide more information about how these events can occur.

NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention during Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work provides guidelines to prevent these incidents.

Michele Steinberg and Lucian Deaton from NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations team were recently invited to attend the CONAF (Consiglio nazionale dei Dottori Agronomi e Dottori Forestali) Conference in Chile to take part in a global discussion regarding climate change and its impact on the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI).  Representatives from CONAF, CALFire, California government agencies, the U.S. Embassy, other global wildfire partners and NFPA were in attendance. California and Chile share many similarities in climate and topography, and are collaborating to share resources.


NFPA briefed attendees at the bi-national Chile-California seminar on Firewise, the community empowerment program that emphasizes neighborhood mitigation efforts in wildfire-risk landscapes. Firewise teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourages residents to work together and take action to prevent losses. There are more than 1350 recognized Firewise communities in the United States.


A small contingent from the conference then ventured out in the community to learn more about the impact of climate change and the threat of wildfire in Chile. Delegates learned about drought and the tremendous impact it has had in Chile. The effect of global warming goes beyond forest fires there; oftentimes Chileans subsist on what they raise and if it doesn’t rain, crops don’t grow, and people and livestock don’t eat.


During their travels, the group met with an indigenous Mapuche community, a large minority population in Chile and Argentina that pre-dated Spanish colonialism. The Mapuche have a different culture and independence – highlighted by the fact that they enjoy isolated living on an island called Isla Huapi in the middle of Lago Ranco, a giant lake. They are not, however, independent – they are interdependent on modern society, other Chileans and the global economy to survive.


Meeting with international climate change leaders and WUI innovators, and touring tribal communities in Chile will not solve wildfire problems, drought and the pollution issues that are causing concern in that country. Sharing success stories, introducing effective resources and establishing cultural insight, however, did have an impact. Just as the Firewise program in the U.S. has provided validation of wildfire challenges and recognition of positive, proactive prevention efforts – NFPA’s recent visit to Chile was extremely valuable to the Chilean people and to the organization’s ongoing efforts to effect positive change in the WUI.

The 2017 Suppression, Detection, and Signaling Research and Applications Conference (SUPDET 2017) will be a joint conference with the 16th International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection (AUBE ’17). The joint conference will be held September 12-14, 2017 at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, Hyattsville, MD.  


Papers are sought on new developments with focus on topics listed in the Call for Papers. Interested presenters should submit an extended abstract (2-3 pages) by email not later than 31 December 2016 to  Abstracts will be reviewed by the program committee and authors will be notified of acceptance by 15 February 2017.


Submitted abstracts should include the full title and name(s), affiliation(s), address(es), telephone number(s), and email address(es) of the author(s), with the presenter identified (underlined).


Abstracts must be original work and will be accepted on the basis of their quality and originality in the field of automatic fire detection and signaling, security systems, automatic suppression, and their applications.  Abstracts should be absent of commercial overtones, be based on good science, present objective and credible results, and be without inherent bias.  Abstracts that do not meet these criteria will not be accepted.  


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