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Old 11-23-2009, 02:06 PM   #31
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


that exact same thing happened to us. Similarly, the door stayed shut, it didn't extinguish quickly, and it travelled a bit along the coil. The oven was pretty clean, and the hotspot/flame didn't behave like a typical fire.

our oven is almost 35 years old. We had this happen twice... 2 seperate incidents. From my firsthand observations, and knowing a bit about chemistry, I believe egghead's explanation....

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Old 11-25-2009, 12:19 PM   #32
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


Happened last night and I will still have to get the turkey ready for tomorrow's Thanksgiving. The restaurant is so easy. (sigh...)

Heating elements that are shorting out (arcing-sparkling) smell nothing like and look nothing like burning food being ignited by a red-hot heating element. Elements burning food, usually oil or drippings, ignite on contact with the elements and make pretty fireplace-like flames--turn the oven switch off for those and open windows to clear smoke. Dry food, like bread and cakes, don't cause fires.

1. Oven heating elements wear out (often by burning). Our oven is 8-years-old. The parts shop confirmed: Lots of cooking and self-cleaning can speed up breakdown. And, yes they keep sparkling until the breaker is turned off; and, stop sparkling immediately.

2. Ovens are 220 volt. The switch is probably on top of the breaker gang on the panel, is a double switch (two locked together), and dedicated to the range-oven. Turn it off. Typical 220 breakers are laundry dryer, water heater and furnace--if electric heat. If the panel door does not have breakers labeled, turn off the double switches, and then find the oven/range-oven switch and keep it off until repairs are made.

3. Do NOT unplug at wall. Range-ovens are heavy, and probably bolted to the floor or wall by law, so they don't tip over and drop the turkey you're basting onto the floor. Turn off power at the breaker.

4. Use baking soda for food fires. Baking soda and typical fire extinguishers won't put out a shorting heating element fire (sparkling element that looks like July 4 sparkler). In fact, the stuff just makes a mess that has to be cleaned up. And, extinguisher powder goes all over--ours tastes and looks like dirty baking soda. The whole kitchen....

5. Closing the oven door won't put out the fire. Ovens are vented, so they get oxygen regardless. A food fire keeps burning until the fuel (or igniter--element) is exhausted, or cools down.

6. I was concerned that another (switch) problem was a culprit--the fire blithely continued after turning off the oven. But, it is logical that heating elements should follow normal electrical standards--one pipe from the oven wall has positive conductor and the other pipe is negative. When the two conductors touch, a short happens. Maybe, a designer can explain the switch issue?

Prevention: The excitement of an oven electrical fire can be prevented (and the turkey baked) by looking for "hot spots" on the elements and replacing one that is "hot"--whiter hot than balance of pink to red hot. Of course, if you are me, I'd remind the S.O. and wait for the fireworks. I remember the bake element had a hot spot near the back, a few inches from the oven wall. That's where the fire started.

Call the appliance parts shop listing your brand and buy a new element for $50 to $75. They will want your brand and model, serial number. I tracked the part down via the brand's web site. GE has pictures, to compare. Note: replacement elements need to match the original. Don't try to modify one for another stove.

I'm off to the parts store, now. And, **really** looking forward to cleaning the mess (and the turkey). Bye!

Too bad this has to be on the 3rd page of horror stories and misinformation....

Addition-- Wow, lots of people buying new elements!

Last edited by hbm; 11-29-2009 at 10:47 AM. Reason: Clarifications
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Old 05-05-2010, 12:23 PM   #33
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


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Originally Posted by Egghead View Post

...For those that have been saying there must have been something flammable on the element, there is, it's called metal. Practically nything is flammable at high enough temperatures. The element was burning white-hot as it worked its way around the oven and was launching orange and white sparks. The best way I can describe it would be like a fireworks sparkler.

From what I've read, the problem results from either an impurity or simply a breakdown of the materials in the heating element which can cause a hot spot to form. When the hot spot reaches a critical temperature, it begins a cascade effect that will work its way around the heating element. Shutting the oven door will quell any flames resulting from grease and foods on the element, but it will not quench the underlying cascade as it is fueling itself.
...
I believe Egghead is on the right track here. My old Kenmore oven (made by GE) just did this on the bottom heating element last night too. It was a tiny bright white hot spot (like a welder) about 1-2 mm across that slowly burnt its way down the heating element, hardly any sparks or flames, spiraling around following the path of the internal coil.

The way mine happened was my wife was cooking at the time and we heard a Bzzzt sound like an arc and the lights in the house sort of dimmed for a fraction of a second. The microwave was running at the same time so I asked her to check on the microwave and nothing was wrong. A few minutes later she noticed the light in the oven and called me in to have a look. I turned off the oven even though it didn't look like an electrical fire. It looked like a metal fire. I tried to smother it with wet paper towels and it happily burnt along without access to air. I found this quite curious so I took an ice cube and held it against the fire and it just melted it away. It was apparently inextinguishable! I smothered it some more and rotated the bake/broil/off knob just to see what happened. Finally it went out after about 5 - 10 minutes of harassment, having burnt along 6-8 inches of the element. I am curious what the reaction was. I might keep the old element and put the torch to it to see if I can reproduce the fire and play with it more, outside of course. My theory is that the old element formed a crack in the porcelain and the electricity arced and provided enough heat to start a metal fire in the element. Metals usually burn at thousands of degrees and can convert water and CO2 even into oxygen because they are so hot. I will update if I find any more information on this subject.

One other thing. I never considered calling the fire dept. I find that to be a waste of resources. Firemen need to be available for real fires. It's in an oven! Ovens are designed to hold heat. And this little bright light was 1-2 mm across with no fuel source other than itself. If a child lit a sparkler and stuck it in the oven would you call the fire department? Common sense goes a long way.
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Old 05-05-2010, 12:29 PM   #34
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


Man, that would totally freak my @$$,
Makes me glad I cook with gas!

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Old 06-13-2010, 04:28 PM   #35
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


I had this happen 30 minutes ago to my oven. It was also a replacement element. The arcing flame (similar to a welder) did not stop when we turned off the oven but continued on. The circuit breaker tripped but I do not know if that is what stopped the flame.

Contrary to what others have said, Tungsten will burn (oxidize) and form Tungsten Trioxide (W03). That is the reason for sealing light bulbs. You can experience this first hand as I have recently experienced in my research on improved light bulb filaments by breaking the glass on a light bulb and turning the light on. The tungsten will quickly develop a thin spot (in about 1 second) which due to the higher electrical resistance will burn brighter than the rest of the bulb. The flare up will burn the element in two and then stop.

One question I have is whether burning tungsten is self sustaining. I do not believe that it is self sustaining -- otherwise we would have more home fires from ovens. This leads me to believe that there may have been a short in the electrical controls of our oven that caused the element to flare up in the first place and remain on despite turning it off.

P.S. I believe that most heating elements for ovens are Nickel-Chromium (NiCr) instead of Tungsten. But I believe the principle is the same.
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Old 02-21-2011, 05:39 PM   #36
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


In Dec of 2004, my wife was taking a ham out of the oven and noticed the bottom coil 'sparking' near the rear of the oven. We turned off the switch and yes, it continued to burn. We saw a small flame. We took pictures and a movie, since we thought this was quite unusual. I suspected a defective coil and ordered a replacement. This worked well for 7 years. Several days ago, my wife was cleaning the oven and noticed the bottom coil was warm. However, the oven switch was OFF. I turned the switch off/on several times and the circuit breaker tripped. When I reset the breaker, the bottom coil came on 'red hot'. I had to turn off the breaker to turn off the oven. The switch did nothing. I am wondering how a defective switch could do this. I would hope a defective switch would be OFF. If we had not been there to see this, how hot would this have gotten. Has this ever been responsible for a fire? I have sent a note to the manufacturer (GE) asking for an explanation.
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Old 02-22-2011, 08:56 AM   #37
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


You didn't post your model serial # so don't know what oven you have. there are many alliterations..the sw contacts were burned and then they finally fused,ergo;won't shut off..it happens, as does the burners shorting through their insulation[outer coating]..as to how hot it would have gotten?? depends on model. some have trip outs..if it's just an old non-self cleaning type, before Ralph Nader made manf clean their act up, it would have gone to melt down...and you thought gas was dangerous!!
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Old 02-22-2011, 10:39 AM   #38
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques View Post
You didn't post your model serial # so don't know what oven you have. there are many alliterations..the sw contacts were burned and then they finally fused,ergo;won't shut off..it happens, as does the burners shorting through their insulation[outer coating]..as to how hot it would have gotten?? depends on model. some have trip outs..if it's just an old non-self cleaning type, before Ralph Nader made manf clean their act up, it would have gone to melt down...and you thought gas was dangerous!!

But will electric make my house go BOOM!?

Lots of stuff is dangerous, but our ignorance allows us to ignore some/most of the dangerous stuff.
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Old 02-22-2011, 12:51 PM   #39
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


First - wow this thread will never die - so to ensure it's continued success....

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But will electric make my house go BOOM!?

Lots of stuff is dangerous, but our ignorance allows us to ignore some/most of the dangerous stuff.


I am consistently aghast that people don't remember or expect that LIFE CAN BE DANGEROUS. How often have you watched people intentionally close their eyes against hazards or refuse to take simple measures to make their lives safe? Meanwhile, they freak out about rare 'scary' events with low probability of ever occurring and the the dangers of drinking tap water.
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Old 02-22-2011, 05:17 PM   #40
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


The stove was a GE. Model# JBP30BB1AD. Serial # ZT118929Q. We never used the self cleaning feature. Just cleaned it the old fashioned way. It was 11 years old.
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Old 02-22-2011, 06:10 PM   #41
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


After 11 years the element may have just failed. That's life.
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Old 02-22-2011, 08:02 PM   #42
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


See my first note: The first element (lower one) burned after 4 years. I installed a replacement and it lasted 7 years. My original complaint was that the oven switch was off, but the coil was hot. I tripped the circuit breaker by turning the oven switch off/on. I reset the breaker and the coil got red hot. Switch = OFF...coil red hot..I saw this to be a bit of a safety hazard. We now have a new stove. I saved the circuit board in case anyone at GE sees this as a problem.
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Old 09-11-2011, 01:54 AM   #43
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


add me to the lucky folks who've just been granted front row access to a fireworks display too....was using the broiler on a steak which had roughly 8 minutes cook time remaining.....stepped into the living room for a minute and then out of the corner of my eye i saw a somewhat familiar bright orange glow coming from the kitchen....i'd had 2 grease fires over the past 13 years and frankly that was what this glow resembled though i knew i had nothing cooking on the stove top other than a a pot of boiling pasta.....i raced to the kitchen and could see that the source of the light show was the broiler coil....the entire coil was glowing as it should while cooking , but there was an incredibly brightly glowing spot about 4 inches from the front and it was clear to see that it was moving forward.....i turned off the power and the rest of the coil cooled enough to "go black" but there was no stopping the burning spot....the color was alternating between orange , white , and blue...honestly , i felt it looked almost exactly like someone welding (well , like the one we use in my job in a machine shop) or a sparkler....five minutes after killing the power the burn had intensified and the coil had literally broken and was falling to the oven floor....i removed a bright orange 6-inch long piece and thoroughly dowsed it then went back for more.....even with 3 pieces removed and soaked , inside the burn was still going , only it appeared to be speeding up....

now come the part you'll flame me for : knowing the coil was useless now that it had burned through and broken apart , all i wanted to do was GET IT OUT OF THE OVEN before the fire moved all the way through the coil into the socket and started some serious problems.......i came back to the living room and grabbed a pair of loppers from behind the front door.....yep...that's right...i said loppers....don't use em in the yard too often , but they certainly did do the trick here....reached into the oven and snipped the coil about 3 inches ahead of the rapidly moving hot spot and then dowsed the coil til it was cool to the touch....

this just happened an hour ago and i haven't touched the oven since....frankly , i don't know exactly what to do to it now....i'm assuming i can still use the stove top , but i'm not sure about the baking element nor do i know if there are any dangers due to possible exposed electrical components and if so , what to do to avoid further problems ....sadly , funds are not available to replace the oven , order and install replacement parts myself (even if i did have any idea of how to do that) , or pay for a service call....so right now i have a 3-burner stove (it WAS 4 at one time but that's a-whole-nother ball of wax as they say) with a baking element and two 8-inch long pieces of a broiler element still just sticking out of their sockets.....
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Old 10-07-2011, 03:21 AM   #44
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


The same thing happened to me and thank god I was home to unplug the oven and if this is a common occurrence, like the person said previously, then I would like to know how often it happens? Because I'm kind of scared to use my oven now. But what happens to these ovens in this thread the same thing that happens to electrical wires in buildings? If it is, then wow, electricity can be dangerous!
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Old 11-02-2011, 05:12 PM   #45
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SCARY oven fire! Why did it burn?


Same thing here on a Kenmore, heating element made by GE.
Two weeks ago, wife had just finished cooking. The oven was off. She came out and told me dinner was ready, went back to kitchen and I heard the say the oven is on fire!
I thought, maybe a little grease fire, we can control that with a pot lid or the like.
When I got there, nothing was in the oven, the element as far as I could tell was clean.
There was a small yellow glow on the lower element & sparks were coming off it.
Not knowing what would make it spark, I grabbed the fire extinguisher and hit it with dry chemical. That helped a little (reduced some of the sparking); but almost immediately it began glowing again.
Now, the small spot was an inch long and going from pink to red color.
I hit it once more with the fire extinguisher, after all it's rated for electrical fires (I later learned that the rating means you can use it and not be electrocuted. An electrical fire will not stop until the energy source is removed).
So, now the red color is three inches long on the element. Then it turned white and began to quickly move along the element.
The fire extinguisher powder was vaporized and all in the air.
If it was something that looked containable, I wouldn't have worried. But this wasn't going to go out. So a call was put in to 911.
I thought it was going to spread and spread quickly. The bottom of the oven was beginning to melt.
--I don't know what the element is made from. I wonder what the temperature is for nichrome or tungsten when it is white-hot, almost translucent and the air around it is shimmering. From my reading, for either of those common metals used in making oven elements, white-hot is well over 2000F. That' pretty darn hot.
So, this hot "spot," more like length of the element is moving fast. I told my wife to get out.
Then I realized if the oven is off and this is happening, it must be getting power. I pulled the circuit breaker. The fireworks immediately stopped. The glow of the element disappeared, just as the fire truck arrived.
I didn't want to call the fire department, but I do not think the stove would have contained 2,000+ degrees. I read on other forums where the same thing has happened with Kenmore ovens, with some of them exploding and taking down the house in flames. I did feel silly for calling the fire department when what needed to be done was kill the circuit. but when this was taking place, and it was happening Fast, there were only seconds to react.

Now my insurance company is balking at paying. They say the personal property was damaged by the cloud of vaporized dry chem powder used to fight the fire. Nothing was burned up, no water damage, no smoke damage, so, no coverage. To me this is absurd. Yes there is residue over everything, the residue was caused by me fighting the fire with the fire extinguisher, i used the fire extinguisher because there was at the beginning a small flame and sparks; therefore the residue being over everything and the house unliveable because of it in the air is due to the fire in the oven. If A=B And B=C; then A=C.
It seemed pretty clear logic.
The firemen said the stove is a total loss.
I have asthma. they told me to take my inhalers and get out of the house.
I would have thought the insurance company would have said "thank you" for keeping the house from burning down. Instead it's nothing but grief from them. And they won't replace the oven. They say it must have been defective. I am supposed to prove to them that it is not.

Moral of the story: even if you have an ABC fire extinguisher, it will not put out an electrical fire. The power must be shut off at the breaker.
And as far as insurance: Don't try to fight the fire. Go to a neighbor's house. Call 911 from there. If the house goes up in the time it takes to do that (and fire goes very fast), you may be better off than the grief given when asking them to clean the place up by you saving it. It seems like they would rather fork out a quarter of a million dollars than pay $4-$5 thousand.

At least we are alive.

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