Computer Fire Starts Flame War

Discussion in 'Computer Information' started by Red Ryder, May 8, 2004.

  1. Red Ryder

    Red Ryder Guest

    One of my family members enquired of me the source of acrid smoke and
    when I looked smoke was pouring out the back of the Pentium IV (2 year
    old) and when I looked closer the wires inside were on fire. The fire
    seems to have originated in a tied bundle of wires between the case
    switches and the motherboard. The case was fairly dusty. I've googled
    newsgroups and web pages for "computer fire" and I gather few have
    experienced a fire in a computer and some believe its not possible.

    My question is - is dust ignition the likely cause of the fire?
    Red Ryder, May 8, 2004
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  2. Red Ryder

    Oldus Fartus Guest

    Well, your experience has shown it is possible.
    I wouldn't think so. My guess would be the plastic wire insulation caught
    fire rather than the dust. It does seem odd that those particular wires
    would heat to such an extent without the power supply shutting down, but
    stranger things have happened.
    Oldus Fartus, May 8, 2004
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  3. Red Ryder

    Thor Guest

    Something obviously had a serious short circuit problem because none of
    those wires normally carries enough current to heat up the wires in the
    Thor, May 8, 2004
  4. Red Ryder

    Oldus Fartus Guest

    Exactly. I wonder if there is something Red Ryder hasn't mentioned?
    Oldus Fartus, May 8, 2004
  5. Red Ryder

    Plato Guest

    I got a page once from a client who said when I called back that there
    were flames coming out of the back of their PC. Evidently the wires or
    whatever inside the power supply had caught fire.
    Plato, May 8, 2004
  6. Red Ryder

    Plato Guest

    In the beginning, LED, IDE activity, turbo and such wires were not
    marked on either the wire connector or motherboard. If you didnt have
    the manual you were really stuck guessing.

    One of my "guesses" fired up the wire while I was connecting it. Flames
    and all.
    Plato, May 8, 2004
  7. Red Ryder

    Michael-NC Guest

    Obviously he had a short circuit...

    Never the less, fires inside a computer case or not unheard of. The safety
    factor is the amount of consumables inside a standard PS case is relatively
    minute. Once the consumables are combusted, the fire will starve for fuel
    and extinguish itself. As I mentioned before, that's why I will never use
    case mods such as lights and Plexiglas side panels as they only add
    consumable mass.
    Michael-NC, May 8, 2004
  8. Red Ryder

    Thor Guest

    what do you do when the TVs, DVDs, and VCR units you buy have all plastic
    housings? You must have a real quandry there. ;-) Seriously, I think your
    apprehension over plexiglass in a PC is a bit unwarranted. Especially
    considering that many new PC designs have gone over to all plastic covers,
    and plastic case covers for PCs have been around in one fashion or another
    for a long time. Just about any consumer electronic product has potential to
    catch fire should something go terribly wrong, and heavy use of plastics is
    the norm in consumer electronics. I don't see the PC as being any more of a
    fire hazard than the average DVD, VCR, or television set. And for the
    record, as I'm typing this out, I'm sitting here watching "Master and
    Commander" on a 32" TV with an all-plastic cabinet, playing from a DVD
    player with an all plastic housing, getting a cool breaze from my
    oscillating fan (all plastic housing) while sitting in front of my 15" LCD
    monitor with an all plastic housing, printing out photos from my digital
    camera on an HP Photosmart 1215 with an all plastic housing, being fed by my
    PC in an aluminum case with a big plexiglass side window.

    Perspective, Michael. :)
    Thor, May 9, 2004
  9. Red Ryder

    Michael-NC Guest




    Plastic housing heater


    Bottom line Thor, plastic housing electronic components have caused many,
    many fires and many lives have been lost. Don't you recall how many fires
    were started by the early "instant on" TV's? Standard PC housings have no
    such hazard due to design. I for one would not want a 10" x 10" piece of
    Plexiglas and rubber gasket exposed to a potential fire. Plexiglas burns
    readily and produces a good deal of combustion byproducts, namely smoke and

    You can find no such links for PC fire hazards but I believe that will
    change with recent addition of massive plastic housings and plastic side
    panels to PC's.
    I for one want no part of such enclosures.

    Plexiglas / Acrylic
    Michael-NC, May 9, 2004
  10. Red Ryder

    Thor Guest

    It falls under the realm of acceptable risk for most reasonable people. I'm
    not a bit worried about the plethora of plastic-encased electronic products
    in my home, nor do I live in mortal fear of my plexiglass PC side window. I
    think your paranoia of plastic is way out of proportion to the actual
    likelihood of a problem that would involve a fire.
    Thor, May 9, 2004
  11. Red Ryder

    Michael-NC Guest

    I think you have a problem when you characterize _concern_ with placing a
    highly combustible material in an electronic component housing as "paranoia"
    and "mortal fear." When you're presented with an opposing viewpoint, a
    hyperbolic exaggeration of dissenter's position is your typical pavlovion
    response, especially so in this case when all the examples you brought in to
    support your argument have experienced the same hazard I am concerned with,
    namely the combustion of the housing itself. If you feel comfortable going
    out of your house and leaving a PC that has a massive plastic housing and
    Plexiglas side panels running unattended, be my guest. I leave my standard
    enclosed PC's running unattended for days and sometimes weeks at a time with
    the utmost confidence, merely switching off the plastic encased monitor, as
    is good practice _because_ of it's plastic housing and ability to combust.
    Michael-NC, May 9, 2004
  12. Red Ryder

    Thor Guest

    I think you have a problem when you characterize _concern_ with placing a
    I just believe you are putting entirely too much emphasis on something that
    is truly inconsequential in the big picture. The risk of a PC experiencing a
    catastrophic failure that results in an internal fire is extremely low to
    begin with, just as it is with most other consumer electronic items. The
    links you cited were all very isolated examples, and not indicative of the
    whole field of the products cited, and the real-world fire risk they have. I
    would surmise that nearly every electronic entertainment product you own is
    encased in, surrounded by, and positively dripping with plastic. Do you run
    around your home and unplug every one of these things every time you leave
    the house? That is not a hyperbolic question. Because if you feel so
    strongly enough about plexiglass side panels in PCs that you feel compelled
    to comment against them here on more than one occasion, and state "I will
    never use case mods such as lights and Plexiglas side panels as they only
    add consumable mass", and furthermore state that you always shut off main
    power to your monitor because of the fire risk you attribute to them, then
    you must really be worried about all the consumable mass present in all the
    other electronic products you own, that are still technically "powered" even
    when their power switches are in the "off" position. Pursuing your thinking
    to it's consistent and logical end, that amount of "concern" of fire risk
    would dictate that you remove power from all these devices as well, because
    they all present that risk. My statements might seem hyperbolic to you, but
    they are meant to shed light upon what I believe is an overemphasis on the
    actual fire risk in a PC. Most monitors and TVs and other electronic
    entertainment devices these days, do not have a full mains cutoff switch,
    leaving the only option to leave the unit in a "standby" mode, in which some
    circuitry is still powered. Yet, peoples homes aren't burning down in an
    epidemic of appliance-initiated fires. Are you prepared to tell people that
    they should pull the AC cord from their monitors, television sets, VCRs, DVD
    players, Stereo systems, Playstations, Xboxes, Gamecubes, TIVOs, Satellite
    receivers, etc every time they leave their homes? If you do not do this in
    your own house (and I would assume you aren't THAT paranoid) then why all
    the emphasis on PCs and that demon of all construction materials, plastic?
    PCs are, for the most part, no different than most other consumer electronic
    items, and with products like Xbox and TIVO, the line between PCs and other
    electronic entertainment products gets blurrier every day. The risk is the
    same, and logic dictates that they should be treated as such. So the
    question really begs, Michael, is your "concern" over plastic so serious
    that you apply the same logic accross the board for all your electronic
    gadgets, doohickies, whatsits, and thingamabobs, as you do your PC, and yank
    all their power cords out whenever they aren't actually being used? If you
    don't, then you have a problem with consistency in the application of your

    You want hyperbole? You're car is full of plastic, has a high-current
    battery, yards of live wiring, a tank full of gasoline, and some other
    highly flammable liquids. It's a ticking timebomb. Better go out and drain
    that tank, and unhook the battery cables so you can sleep at night. Reply as
    you wish. I won't bother arguing this issue further. Suffice it to say, I
    think you are an alright guy, but I think you are just a little nutty about
    this issue. No hard feelings there, fire marhsall Bill?
    Thor, May 9, 2004
  13. Red Ryder

    VWWall Guest

    If you're really worried you can go to your main electrical panel and
    turn off the main breaker. Of course your alarmn clock, (plastic case),
    will not wake you and your air conditioner, (many plastic components),
    will leave you very hot. Don't use your plastic cased toaster for
    breakfast, and be sure not to use the microwave.

    I do agree with turning off things, (plastic case or not), that are not
    in use. Your water heater is far more likely to cause a fire than any
    "plastic case", but I don't want to turn it off.

    If you think Thor's response denegrates your paranoia, so be it.
    Keep drooling when you hear Pavlov's bell!

    Hyperbolic exagerations represent only this respondant opinions. ;-

    Virg Wall
    VWWall, May 9, 2004
  14. Red Ryder

    Michael-NC Guest

    Oh gee, more words of wisdom...
    FYI, I have central air and there is no major plastic components in the
    unit. My toaster oven is metal cased, as well as the overhead micro. If you
    want to deny that plastic cased appliances have never caused fire injury and
    death, be my guest.
    A properly installed and operated water heater poses no danger.
    I fail to grasp the context of what I guess is supposed to a humorous
    Go take a nap Virge.
    Michael-NC, May 9, 2004
  15. Red Ryder

    Michael-NC Guest

    That's what _you_ feel. I merely stated that *I* will never use these
    plastic side panels and other plastic doodads in a PC. You then picked up on
    some perceived paranoia and mortal fear on my part. If I tell you I'll never
    jump off a bridge, I'll have a mortal fear of bridges, according to your
    IMO, the very reason you can't find any evidence of a serious PC fire hazard
    is due to their metal encased construction. Had PC's been shipping in
    plastic enclosures, I'm sure there would have been many examples of PC fires
    and subsequent property damage and serious injuries.
    I disagree, there are many, numerous examples of appliance fires and by
    context, none for the PC, for exactly the reasons I stated earlier.
    That's just not so. Both DVD players I own are metal encased, as is my
    stereo. All the VCR's are metal cased as well, save for the plastic fascia,
    similar to a plastic front bezel on a PC.
    You choose to characterize my concern as paranoia for whatever reason, I do
    not characterize it that way. It's my decision to not alter what I consider
    a very safe design. It's my decision not to install combustible side panels
    to a device that has the potential for a fire. It's the same reasoning I use
    when making purchasing decisions based upon sound reviews and UL listings,
    making sure the wiring system in my home is safe, having fire extinguishers
    available, having smoke and C02 detectors, as well as a plan in place in
    case of fire. There is a home fire death every 170 minutes or so in the US.
    While this has nothing to do with the PC, it's my preference to not add
    combustible components into the equation.
    I'm really not interested in discussing the fire hazard of every single
    appliance in the home. I stated my view on mitigating one single perceived
    risk, period. Everyone can think about mitigating risks or not. You could
    buckle your seat belt or not. You can choose to lessen any perceived hazard
    in your home or not and I don't believe that falls into the paranoia
    Around 390,000 reported home fires a year is nothing to sneeze at. Most are
    caused by smoking, heating equipment or cooking. Faulty appliances are but a
    minor contributing factor and I never said that they were. You continue to
    attribute outlandish theories and scenarios to support your argument and I
    suggest they are out of context to statement of never wanting to put
    Plexiglas side panels in my PCs.
    See my comment above. However, it is accepted wisdom and advised that people
    do unplug certain appliances when leaving the home for extended periods of
    Why all the emphasis? Because I was replying to a thread with the exact same
    topic, that's why. Does that make sense to you? I stated an opinion and you
    started the paranoia bullshit.
    No, the "problem" still lies with you. I made a statement and you choose to
    characterize as me being paranoid and having a mortal fear of fire. I stated
    my decision to mitigate a possible risk and since you have a Plexiglas side
    panel in your PC, a nerve was struck and you decided to attack my position
    with hyperbole and exaggerated examples you think are relevant. That's what
    I just got rear-ended by a truck the other day. Since I drive a 8,000 pound
    vehicle, damage was minimal. I don't drive a 79 Pinto with the trunk stuffed
    with tinder Thor, rather I choose what vehicle I drive based on what my
    perceived safety of the vehicle is and I'll continue to make decisions on
    what appliances I buy and how I build my PCs with my own acceptability of
    risk considered and I don't expect to be called paranoid and irrational
    because I choose to do so and happen to mention my view in an on topic

    I find your style of argument extremely immature and utterly without merit.
    Michael-NC, May 9, 2004
  16. Took you long enough to figure that out!!! LOL!

    BinaryBillTheSailor, May 9, 2004
  17. Red Ryder

    VWWall Guest

    What does Ekal Bnek think about this?

    Virg Wall
    VWWall, May 10, 2004
  18. Red Ryder

    w_tom Guest

    Some are not concerned about plastic encased equipment only
    because others with technical knowledge have exercised great
    pain to worry about fire. Cited previously was a car - with
    significant design spent so that plastic and other
    combustibles are isolated from potential flame. Fusing
    everywhere so that wires do not create fire. Insides of
    computers often lined in metal or metallic surfaces simply so
    that rare flame does not cause burning plastic. Fire
    retardant plastics used because fire is a serious problem in
    every appliance. Fire is so 'rare' that it still remains a
    dangerous and serious problem.

    Why is every keyboard and mouse dedicated fused? Again,
    fire. Why is the power supply encased in metal. Fire. Some
    resistors are specially selected to be fire retardant - so
    that failure does not result in flame. And yet some
    technicians repair a TV - and don't use the fire retardant
    resistor. They never learned that fire is a major part of
    every electronic design and its repair. The shop manual was
    very specific about resistors that must be flame retardant -
    yet a repairman could not be bothered.

    Yes there may be clone computers out there badly assembled
    as to be a fire problem. Those with clear plexiglas sides are
    a prime candidate. Too many don't take Michael-NC's quite
    appropriate attitude: fire always remains a consideration in
    every design - from PC, to automobile, to residential
    building. A consideration not found where, for example,
    computer experts need not have first learned these important
    technical principles.

    What is the chance that a two wire extension cord will cause
    a bedroom fire? Near zero. That near zero is so dangerous
    that we now require Arc fault breakers on all bedroom
    receptacles. Why? Again, fire. Danger of fire is a
    consideration in everything electrical. Everything.
    Michael-NC's worry about fire is even more justified as
    demonstrated in this thread where others who repair or
    assemble computers apparently don't worry about the danger.
    Fire always remains a major threat in every appliance.

    Does that clone computer case come with consideration for
    fire? What kind of plastic is used in cases with neon lights
    inside? Why do we want UL sticker on our computers? Fire.
    You damn well know the brand name computers worry about fire.
    But then engineers must learn more than just how to assemble
    parts. The major consumer concern should be clone computers
    where the assembler buys parts only on price and is not
    concerned about fire danger.

    Another reason why every computer power supply must have
    overpower protection? Fire. Something that so many clone
    computers just forget to put in their discounted power
    w_tom, May 10, 2004
  19. Sorry, I think you are already overwhelmed.

    BinaryBillTheSailor, May 10, 2004

    BinaryBillTheSailor, May 10, 2004
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