WITH NEW ADVANCES AND TECHNOLOGY come new problems for
fire and rescue people. We all remember the crash-course (sorry for the
pun) training on the new automobile bumper shock absorbers and their
propensity to hurl deadly debris into the nearest firefighter.
These sorts of discoveries are always a surprise because nobody who makes
these things ever thinks about letting us know first. We have to find out
about it ourselves and then spread the word. Such is the case with these
new, screwy light bulbs that are showing up in homes all over the country.
Area Of Origin Tip: CFL bulb
One of our readers from Local-3272 passed along to us a training memo from his department that we all can file
away into the cranial databank for future “smell of smoke” calls. This bulletin tells us:
We began the process of checking each bulb and found one in a ceiling fixture that had a ballast failure much
like we are accustomed to finding in traditional overhead tube lighting fixtures in commercial buildings.
A CFL bulb contains a ballast at the base of the unit between the spiral tube and (Edison) screw. This ballast,
encased in a plastic shell, may or may not have visible vent holes or slots.
The ballast contains a Voltage Dependent Resister that, when failure occurs, opens like a fuse to protect the
device and associated electrical equipment. The resultant heat and smoke should escape from the vents in the
housing. Light smoke may be visible and one will smell that distinct electrical ballast odor. As in the case the
other night, there were visible smoke marks and a small, brown oily/gooey residue at the vent holes. These
signs were not visible with the bulb in its socket.
Since more CFL bulbs are finding their way into the home, don't overlook these items when investigating a
On June 18, 2008, BC602 ran a house fire where the
occupant reported a haze of smoke in the structure. The
first Engine reported an electrical odor at the top of the
basement steps that had the distinct odor of light ballast.
Initial investigation both visually and with a Thermal Image
Camera revealed no unusual hazards. The house contained
no “traditional” fluorescent light fixtures. The occupant
informed us that they had installed CFL bulbs in numerous
fixtures and lamps throughout the house.
Story provided by Bill Schumm at FireGeezer.com