Gas Powered Space Heater Causes Deadly House Fire

Joseph O'Neill

Written by
— Updated on April 11, 2018

Safety Expert WitnessThis case involves a house fire caused by a gas powered space heater. At the time of the incident in question, the Plaintiff was using the space heater to provide supplemental heat to an enclosed porch attached to his home. While the heater was running, the Plaintiff left the porch area to prepare dinner for his family, during which time the Plaintiff was gone for no more than 30 minutes. It was at this point that the heater apparently malfunctioned, sparking a fire in the porch area. The fire eventually spread to the rest of his house, which burnt to the ground with one fatality. It was claimed that the space heater was defective, and that the fire was a direct result of the defective heater.

 

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please discuss your background in working on space heater design.
  • 2. What could have been done to avoid the accident?

Expert Witness Response E-008914

I have worked as the principal engineer for an HVAC equipment manufacturer, where my primary focus was on design and development of controls and safety components of electric and water-fed heating appliances. In addition, I was employed as an application engineer for a manufacturer of natural gas-fed heating and ventilation equipment. Specific warnings, labels, and other means of conveying safe distance requirements could have helped to avoid the accident. In addition, high temperature limit switches could have been properly-employed to insure that the auto-ignition temperatures of clothing, carpeting, furniture, or other materials were never met. Testing by an independent organization such as UL or ETL for safe operations in proximity to persons, clothing, or other combustible materials could insure a safe application of the product.

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