July 3, 2017

A fireworks story?

Many people get too afraid of fire.  In doing so you diminish your ability to react correctly in a "hot" situation.

When I was a young man, growing up on a farm, an interesting play toy I found was gasoline.  Now I respected it, and knew it's dangers.  I also knew it was something that I needed to explore.  And I suppose it is one of the reasons I ended up in the automotive repair industry.  Fire of any type, was fascinating to me.  So I had many many experiences with it.

After I started my own mobile repair business(House Calls), that experience with gasoline and fire paid off one day.

I had been called out to a remote trailer house in the country. The vehicle the man had been working on refused to start for him.  It was in the garage.  The garage was separate from the trailer but close to it.  He told me how he had been trying for 3 days to start it but he could not get any spark.  The engine would turn over and crank just fine, but it would not start.

It did not take long to determine that the ignition module was the problem.  It was not sending a signal to the ignition coil.  At this moment in the diagnostic procedure I was not aware that the ignition module was sending a signal to the injectors.  So all the time he had been cranking that engine for the last three days, the injectors were spraying gasoline into the cylinders.  And, as a result, since the gasoline was not being ignited by the spark, it was washing down the cylinder walls into the oil sump, diluting the oil with gasoline.

I went back to town and purchased an ignition module.  It was quickly installed and as I watched from the front of the vehicle, I told him to, "crank it over".  The engine immediately started. Simultaneously, the fire in the cylinders ignited the fuel fumes in the oil sump.  The resultant explosion forced oil diluted with gasoline out of the dipstick tube, oil fill cap, and the crankcase breather onto the hood liner, AND IT WAS ON FIRE!  There was fire all over the engine compartment!

I instantly knew what had happened and why.  My customer shouted, "I'll get the hose!"  I shouted back, "No!  No water!  Not the hose!"  He didn't listen and ran out of the garage to get the garden hose.  I knew I would have to stop the fire before he got back otherwise he would spread the fire everywhere.  We might get burned, he would loose his car, his garage, and possibly his trailer house.

Those were the first two seconds after ignition of the fire.  The next second was critical to get the fire out before the oil started to burn.  At this point, only the fumes from the gasoline were burning off the mixture of oil and gasoline.  I had no fire extinguisher, The floor of the garage was cement, not dirt, so no dirt to throw on the fire.  I looked around quickly to spot anything at all to use.  There was nothing.  The garage was empty.

I took a deep breath and blew a hard puff of air at the base of the fire on the engine.  It went out.  I took another deep breath and did the same for the fire on the hood liner, and a third for a small fire up front of the engine by the radiator.  The fire was out.  Total time from ignition of fire, to fire put out.........3 seconds.

Just as I got the fire out he came running in the with hose in hand ready to spray water everywhere. He looked at me with a dumbfounded look.  "How did you do that?"  The first words out of my mouth were, "If you would have sprayed water on that fire, we would have been running for our lives."  There was a moment of shock we both shared, but then, the fire was out, so write up the repair bill and move on to the next job.

I might have been a little nuts about playing with fire as a child, but the experience paid off that day.

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