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Shop safety issue

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Okay, I am driving home and the check gauges light on my dash keeps flashing on and off. It finally stayed on and I saw my voltage dropping. I thought, over 200K miles, alternator. NOT! The control box for my winch in the bed of the truck caught fire (fuse did not blow) and it caught the coal in the back of the truck on fire. I raised the hood and disconnected the battery; I grab the fire extinguisher (fully charged last week's check) and ffft, nothing! So I doused it with a bucket of water. No damage to the truck

I called the fire department and asked them why a "fully charged fire extinguisher would fail. I was told that they needed to be replaced every 3 to five years and a good habit is to give each one a good shake every week.

So check your fire safety equipment.

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I haven't heard of replacing them, but getting them serviced regularly. The shaking is to get the ammonium nitrate that is used in most dry chemical extinguishers loosened up,as it will pack down over time.

If you can find one of the old Halon extinguishers, they are the best. As long as there is liquid in the tank, it will squirt. No longer made due to EPA, and CFC's, so they are expensive to get refilled. Unlike other extinguishers even if you just used a quick shot, all you have to do is replace the pin, and put it away.

I find it funny that it caught coal on fire in a truck :lol: Who else, but a smith?

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Those halon extinguishers are amazing. About 20 years ago I was working for a construction company. One of the foremen cam into the office and we were talking when someone came in to say the foreman's truck was on fire. The engine had caught on fire, we emptied a couple of 10lb fire extinguishers and a 20lb one as wel,l the fire was still burning away. Someone brought out a small halon extinguisher that was in the office for the computers it knocked the fire out almost instantly.

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I have several recreational marine fire extinguishers. They are indicated, if the gauge is not on the dot, or there is any damage to the bottle it needs replaced. They are dry chemical and inexpensive, but only come in about a 5# size, 2# of agent (I looked) 5BC and 1A:10BC. They do go dead if dropped for some reason, even if they get no visible damage.

Dry chemical extinguishers are not very effective against burning solids such as paper or wood...and coal.

The agent in the 1A:10BC tends to crystallize on hot surfaces so it is effective on solids but makes it difficult to reuse components that have been in the fire, something to remember in the engine compartment.

CO2 extinguishers share the same feature of halon, you use what you need and the rest is still good, but the product is not nearly as effective at blanketing.


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I ave 1 of those old water types .

Unscrew the top , 1/2 fill with water , replace top & off the side is a fixed tyre valve & a PSI gauge .
Then connect to compressor with tyre gauge & charge with air

PSI gauge is divided inta 3 sections Black , Green & Red
Black is under charged , Green is correct charge , Red over charged

Sit's beside the forge , ok for wood / paper ect , no good for electrical / chemical / fuel fires , but has been handy when hot bit's of metal get thrown the other side of shop & set's something on fire

Will put out most small fires i get in shop , last's about 10 minutes

I refill & charge it after every use , no good to me if it's empty

Dale Russell ( aka ) lefty

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A few tips on fire extinguishers.
All the below applies to the USA.
All pressurized fire extinguishers used in industry have a requirement to be hydro pressure tested on a 6 year cycle and most have a fixed 12 year life.
Using ANY fire extinguisher and just putting the pin back in is risky from the standpoint that th valve seats almost always leak. You will have zero pressure unit pretty soon. They need to be rebuilt with new seals after any discharge.
Those pressure gages on extinguishers are not real reliable. Seen them indicate full and no pressure.
A 10# dry powder extinguisher has less than 15 seconds of full spray and then its empty.
Halon is good but very expensive. There are newer agents with similar performance called "Clean Agents" Also very expensive.
CO2 is usually weighed to check if full. The tare weight should be stamped on the tank. add the rated weight to the tare and if the unit weighs less it is part empty.

Even an empty unit makes a good battering ram to go through a side wall to escape a fire.

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Halon is good stuff for sure but death on computers. I did a couple of big projects for large producer of computer chips and they were told by their insurance company to install a Halon system. We complied in their request but also complied with the owners request for a standard water based sprinkler system in the computer rooms, big computer rooms, main frames. The owner had found out that when the Halon system went off the Halon gas coated the internals of the computer main frames with a conductive film and did considerably more damage to a computer room than when one sprinkler head went off the contain a fire if one should start. The conductive film totally toasted the computer and almost all equipment in the room, the water only the pieces that got wet. They also found that Halon was a trigger for those with asthma and the effects to them were very long lasting. Halon had both it's supporters and it's detractors in the company we did the work for them so they got both systems installed. The sprinkler system was a dry one where when a fuse was melted on a sprinkler the system was charged with water, that way there were no wet pipes over the computer system until a fire.
In restaurants we would do these system that used this stuff called Purple K in the hoods over the grease hoods and grills, really trashed a kitchen when it went off. Grease fires are sure nasty.
When I had a studio I had three fire extinguishers plus a pump weed/bug sprayer charged with water for the stray spark or chunk of metal. A clean floor goes a long way in preventing that kind of fire.

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  • 7 years later...

I have an ABC extinguisher in the garage, dry chemical powder.  I note that its A performance is rather low.  Once I start running the forge in there, I considered, besides a bucket of water, a pressurized water fire extinguisher.  I see at least one member has good luck with this.

I live in northern Illinois and my detached garage is not heated other than the torpedo heater I used occasionally.  that means freezing temps will exist in the garage when unattended.  Has anyone ever used antifreeze in a water fire extinguisher?  the alternative of carrying it in and out for each forging session is possible, but not if I can figure out a way to leave it in the garage. 


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11 minutes ago, MotoMike said:

Has anyone ever used antifreeze in a water fire extinguisher? 

There was something on a thread a little while back about someone adding something to their water fire extinguisher, but I can't remember if that was a freezing point issue or a wetting agent issue.

Addendum: it was a foaming agent to make the water extinguisher both class A and class B, but there was discussion of adding antifreeze as well; see https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/52940-a-close-call/

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Adding ethylene glycol, (an antifreeze), will lower the freezing temperature. Please note that that chemical is poisonous. It has a sweet taste that dogs really like.

If the dog ingests some they die. So please keep the chemical and also water solution out of the reach of them and children.


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That is Propylene glycol, not as sweet and not too toxic. It's not quite as good an antifreeze but good enough. We used to use propylene glycol to dose livestock with to treat a condition I don't recall and Deb's not here to ask. It won't cause renal failure like ethylene glycol WILL. What I do NOT know is what will happen spraying propylene glycol in a fire. It could make some REALLY TOXIC smoke or fumes.

Borax straight out of the box is a decent dry chemical extiguisher. If you might have an oil fire sand is a good choice.

Frosty The Lucky.

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please find attached link to the different extinguisher types for the different types of burning materials. As you see you can’t use every type for each stuff.


-If you try to extinguish an oil fire (also fry pan at home) with water (water/some foam extinguishers) you will get a hydrogen explosion

-If you try to extinguish an electric fire caused by short cut on your electric installation with water (water/some foam extinguishers) you can be electrocuted.

-If you try to extinguish an fire on liquid metals like brass or bronze involved, with water (water/some foam extinguishers) you will get a hydrogen explosion

-If you try to extinguish any fire in a confined space without/less on ventilation and with a CO2 or halon extinguisher you can suffocate because of lack on air/oxygen

The best type of extinguisher for many types of fires is an powder extinguisher (also the cheapest ext. –beside of the DIY’s refillables), but think twice before you used tem, the powder is very corrosive to wiring, and many and other components and cause a lot on extra damage ones the fire is extinguished.

Next to the extinguishers I have a fire blanket in shop and kitchen to, to be able to suffocate the flames off a starting fire and my wife and I are practical trained by FA & FF courses to use is.

The shelf life of fire extinguishers in the EU expires after 10 years and extinguishers in public buildings and companies must be checked annually by an inspection body.

Yes I know, many of the lecturers know about above mentioned information and I aim on the ones they didn’t know so well.

Have a nice day.

Cheers, Han

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Frosty and Han, thanks I was thinking of glycerin based rv type antifreeze, which is I think even a bit less effective as an antifreeze, but as you say Frosty, good enough.  glycerin is used ins some foods and the product is labeled non toxic.    I too don't know what it will do when sprayed on a fire. 

Han, I have a 5 pound ABC extinguisher.  It is best at class B.  a good thing to have in a garage or where Oil might catch.  But I picture most of my possible forge related issues will be class A where the performance is not as good.  I'd prefer to splash some water on it and if in more temperate climes, the antifreeze issue would not come up.  the pinch offs that Frosty and others have mentioned, though mindful of trying to direct them out the door, I've not done it even once yet and don't expect I'll be able to do that in each case.  I'd hate to break out a chemical extinguisher every time a pinch off finds something to ignite.   




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Good info Hans thank you. I sometimes forget how long it's been since I took a fire safety class. 

Mike: this is a technique I teach students that all but eliminates pinch offs and hardy damage. I teach folk to NOT part the steel on the hardy, just incise it deeply all the way around. Then they break it off with a pair of tongs or in the pritchel hole. A tin pan or coffee can under the pritchel hole catches the trimmins safely. This technique helps prevent missed blows from blunting my hardies and marking up my hammers. It's a twofer.

Still there is always the possibility of a cutoff or something breaking off and getting away from you.

When ever possible my oil fire safety technique leans towards containment and suffocation. It's easy to handle a fire that doesn't get away from you. My quench tank is a 6-7 gl of canola oil in a 15gl. grease barrel with lid in a cut down 55gl. drum with lid. If the oil barrel boils over and catches fire it still can't go anywhere and I can drop the lid on it, cover the containment drum and let it cool. Even if it did get away to the point I can't get the lid on the drum it's far enough away from anything heat sensitive I can just let it burn. 

I know this is silly but I got a deal on an aluminized fire suit and can get it on in about 2 minutes so I CAN get a lid on the drum if I don't hang out in the fire and run out of air.

I do NOT like Halon extinguishers, it's dangerous stuff in it's own rights. It works by locking up the oxygen faster than the fire so the fire is suffocated. It's a faster and harder to break bond than oh say oxygen and hemoglobin, the stuff is worse than freon. Well it's very closely related to freon, part of the same group of chemicals I believe. Either one makes CO look like an air freshener.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Unheated shops can realy benifit from installing a no freeze facet. Then you can leave a hose and sprayer in place. Remember to disconnect and drain the hose and reconnect it so it won't be clogged with ice but ready to go when you need it. 

Spill containment around oil quench is also a good idea, from an oil drain pan to a drum cut off. Occasional cleaning and shop desighn to facilitate such as well as fire resistant desighn and material are also good. 

Residential sprinklers are now available as well. Rigging a dry system to work off a no freeze isn't to difficult. It obviusly doesn't give you stand alone protection but if things get out of hand you can hit the hydrant in the way out the door. 

In the case of sprinklers, they can contain an oil fire in a structure buy robing the fire of one of its legs, heat. As water converts to steam it sucks up a lot of heat, reducing the fire to below the flash point. Also being able to close the doors and apply water will rob the fire of oxygen, wile the steam will reduce the risk of flash over. 

A home brew sprinkler system isn't going to satisfy the fire martial or you insurance but it gives you one more chance to slow a fire that started wile you were working down untile help arrives. 

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