Remember What Your Mother Told You About Assuming?

It was a dark and stormy night, and Mike and Linda were enjoying a night out when they received a call that their house was on fire. They rushed home and were greeted by the fire department, curious neighbors, and the burnt shell of what used to be their house. While they were trying to remember if they turned off the space-heater, unplugged the toaster, and shut off the lights, an investigator was considering the bigger picture, knowing that all too often people are quick to point to electronics and wiring as the probable cause of a fire. Here is a real-life examples to demonstrate this tendency:


Following an after-hours fire in a 32-lane bowling alley, where the only ignition sources in the room of origin were electric appliances and room lighting, jumping to the conclusion that the fire was electrical in nature was not difficult. A detailed investigation and witness interviews revealed, however, another possibility. Less  than three hours prior to the fire, an employee had pulled a stack of towels from the dryer, which had been used to clean up vegetable oil in the kitchen. It was reported that the towels had an odor to them and an oily feel even after being washed and dried. Upon eliminating the possible electrical fire causes, careful excavation of the site uncovered remnants of the towels, supporting the determination that the fire was caused by spontaneous ignition of vegetable oil-soaked rags.

Click here for more on the pitfalls of making assumptions.

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