Do computers start fires?

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by DavidCar, Jul 11, 2005.

  1. DavidCar macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2004
    #1
    I just heard of a server starting a fire at a local school. I don't know what kind of server it was. Is the possibility of a computer, such as a PowerMac, overheating and starting a fire something that I should be concerned about?
     
  2. puckhead193 macrumors G3

    puckhead193

    Joined:
    May 25, 2004
    Location:
    NY
    #2
    my gateway caught on fire a few years ago..... i mean, it wasn't like flames, but it wasn't turning on so the tech guy told me to open it up, and turn on the power, when i did, the video card started to fry. The chip turned started to turn red and i quickly removed the power.
     
  3. iMeowbot macrumors G3

    iMeowbot

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2003
    #3
    Yes, they can do bad things. Keep the vents/grates unblocked and watch out for dust bunnies inside so that the fans can do their job, and don't use the Power Mac's handles for hanging gasoline-soaked rags to dry.
     
  4. zap2 macrumors 604

    zap2

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Washington D.C
    #4
    so many things can start fire and computers are just one of them but i have never had any of my computer catch fire
     
  5. Eniregnat macrumors 68000

    Eniregnat

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2003
    Location:
    In your head.
    #5
    Sound advice found here.
    I work in a recording studio. The old analogue equipment had a tendency to catch on fire. Most of the time it was a bug crawling up in one of the drive motors, perhaps the heat and the smell of warm tasty varnish around the coils, which knows. If flames ever showed their heads it was usualy a motor control board, or a very old amp. It happened so often that our CO2 fire extinguishers were never topped off for long. After dumping nearly 30 reel-to-reel recorders in the recycling bins my life is nearly flame free. We use computers for just about everything, and the only thing I have ever had burn inside a computer was an internal modem card.

    None of our servers have ever caught fire, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Our PC based tower server attracts a lot of dust. The switches get hot, really hot, and from time to time we burn a UPS.

    There are other sources of fires aside from servers.
    Three major sources of fires at schools.
    • 1.) Student- Every kid knows the pyromaniac or mad scientist.
    • 2.) Teacher- Despondent teachers who know that the only salvation is in self-immolation.
    • 3.) Zombies- I don’t know if you ever thought about it, but kids brains are a delicacy for zombies, and if there is an outbreak of zombies, they head to the schools first. We all know that the undead are flammable.

    If you know an overworked undead pyromaniac student teacher...well the server bursting into flames would be your least of your worries.
     
  6. DavidCar thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2004
    #6
    The problem was definitely the server. After the alarms went off they ran to the media room and found smoke and flames coming out of the server. They tried fire extinguishers with no luck.

    The news tonight is making these recommendations for home computers: "To Stay Safe, keep your computer server and equipment off the carpet, don't store or stack paper around your computer, and every home should have a fully-charged fire extinguisher."
     
  7. tech4all macrumors 68040

    tech4all

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    NorCal
    #7
    One time my cousins AC adapter cord started to smoke, seriously. It's happened twice to him. The outer plastic actually burned through so you could see the inner wires. It's a Toshiba laptop.
     
  8. Eniregnat macrumors 68000

    Eniregnat

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2003
    Location:
    In your head.
    #8
    Caution is always good, but above my humor and sound advice is a URL. It lists the top five causes of fires, and of equipment that causes fires, I think computers are on the down side. I have had toaster fires, and once my microwave didn't shut off and did burn, but it was old.

    Servers are on constently and like any unattended electrical appliance there is the increased risk of fire.

    Your relay of advice is noted and appreacated, but I wouldn't worry too much. I am still worried about flame loveing teens.

    Post Script Edit: [​IMG] Too cool. Is that from Rhodan v.s. the mouse with sparklers?
     
  9. mduser63 macrumors 68040

    mduser63

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2004
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, UT
    #9
    DavidCar,
    That was some fire wasn't it. It's too bad that so much damage was done. I'm just glad that no one was hurt. I could see the smoke from my house all afternoon.

    Anyway, computers (and anything that plugs into the wall really) can certainly cause fires if they malfunction in some way. Be careful with any appliance. Don't use cords that are frayed, don't keep paper near wall warts, basically don't do anything that makes the likelihood of a fire go up. My uncle, who works on computers for the school district, knows the people in charge of that school's computer system. I'm going to have to ask him if he finds out any more about what caused the fire.
     
  10. DavidCar thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2004
    #10
    I only saw the fire on the news, but that was dramatic enough. I've noted more reports of fires related to batteries in portables, and in AC adapters, and I think a video card, but nothing on servers, so it would be interesting to know just what the problem was.

    I'm thinking of building a wooden computer cabinet, hence my concern. Fire resistant paint is an option I am considering, but I don't know yet if that would be practical.
     
  11. tech4all macrumors 68040

    tech4all

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    NorCal
    #11
    It's from Fantasmic at Disneyland/world of the dragon breathing fire onto the water.
     
  12. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2004
    Location:
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    #12
    Somebody maybe missed the golden rule of electrical fires: First step is to turn off the juice. pull the plug, throw the breaker. In a car crash, turn off the ignition. This eliminates potential sources of ignition, not to mention reduces the incidence of electric shock when the sprinklers cut in...
     
  13. DavidCar thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2004
    #13
    I think the first thing they did was call 911 and begin evacuating the building, which is probably standard procedure for a fire in a school. The school might have been too old for a sprinkler system. I don't think there is enough detail available yet to know if and when they unplugged the server.
     
  14. slooksterPSV macrumors 68030

    slooksterPSV

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Location:
    Nowheresville
    #14
    When I was in my A+ class, we fried a motherboard due to components not sitting in there correctly. I didn't do it, but some kids who didn't know what they were doing did it. I swear some peoples kids. The only bad thing I've done to a computer where I or someone else could have been hurt, is forgetting to unplug it and installing new RAM. Thats about the worst and I've done it only 3 times.

    I bet some kids were near the server room and yeah did something to make it catch fire, paper, you know. Surprised someone else saw that on TV too, (surprised there're Mac Utahns lol jk).
     
  15. SchmoBurger macrumors newbie

    SchmoBurger

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2005
    Location:
    Australia
    #15
    I know for one that yo-yo's catch fire... but the again, EVERYONE knows that! :lol: I have two friends who had yo-yo's catch fire... one on a desk, and one on a bed!

    I've heard of TiBooks scorching wooden desks too, and even my old PB 1400 got so hot one summer that after I took it off my lap, I noticed it had started to scorch my pants... not good.

    I've also had a Powermac 7500 PSU blow up in my face once... I plugged it in and it just went "BANG!", and a flame shot out the back of the case!... I noticed later that the flame left a small scorch mark on a nearby chairleg.

    I've also had a Mac Plus that started to smoke before the screen started jittering.

    Then, finally, there was the TV that started zapping and arcing, complete with smoke and all...

    So, yes, I think it's safe to say yes, they can catch fire!
     
  16. lisius_kent macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2004
    Location:
    Bend, Oregon
    #16
    In my old school an ol 586's PSU shorted out, and caught fire. It caused savere fire/water damage to the rooms, school was out for a week :)
     
  17. cleanup macrumors 68030

    cleanup

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2005
    Location:
    Toronto
    #17
    My iMac causing a fire? I wouldn't put it past it. This iMac is quite capable in more than one way. I'm keeping my eye on it.

    Fortunately, the largest fire I've been near enough to experience its effects is a large campfire. :) I haven't had power sources, fans, cables, AC adapters and other electrical gizmos explode in my face, and I'm glad that I haven't.
     
  18. pubwvj macrumors 68000

    pubwvj

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2004
    Location:
    Mountains of Vermont
    #18
    I had a MacPlus burn up. Fortunately I was right there and stopped it.
    I read about a PowerMac(?) burning up in a college dorm and causing a lot of damage as a result of the fire. Google.
     
  19. iHateWindows macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 11, 2005
    #19
    Only a PC could do that. Macs are too smart for that.
     
  20. louis_sx macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2005
    Location:
    International House of Louis
    #20
    I fired up a 1.2GHz Athlon machine (Thunderbird core) once without a heatsink. POOF! That ****'ll burn you, too. Good thing the side of the case was still on. The stench was awful. Motherboard was black inside the processor socket. I didn't do it a second time, I guarantee.
     
  21. DavidCar thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2004
    #21
    I did Google it and found the following: On March 12 the Prince reported that the University's insurance company, Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance, had sued Apple to recoup the $2 million that it paid Princeton to cover the claim, on the basis that the December 2001 fire in Moffit Hall was started by the PowerMac G4 in the office. However Dave Schroeder at the University of Wisconsin investigated the Princeton Borough Fire Department reports and found that the PowerMac is apparently not to blame. He has created a web site showing the relevant fire department reports. Thanks Dave!

    end of quote. The report indicated the fire started inside an electrical box, not the computer.

    But I wish I knew how to fireproof a wooden cabinet, if only to help me sleep better.
     
  22. Lau Guest

    #22
    Someone correct me if I'm wrong about this, but surely wood is no more flammable than plastic, and the majority of computer cases are made from that? With the exception of the lovely PowerMacs/Books, of course. And burning plastic can give off nasty fumes, whereas wood doesn't. I would be tempted to say don't worry about it....
     
  23. iMeowbot macrumors G3

    iMeowbot

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2003
    #23
    There is plenty of fire retardant wood (chemically treated) on the market. Plastics chosen for electrical equipment will have comparable qualities.

    I'd be more worried about RF shielding, especially now that so many appliances have wireless this and that. An straightforward way to get that would be to use the metal inside cage from a standard PC enclosure and replace the plastic panels with wood ones.
     
  24. DavidCar thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2004
    #24
    I tend to overdesign things, so the advice to not worry about it may work just as well. But it would be a 7 foot tall narrow cabinet, so any possible fire would have a good chance of getting into the attic. The PowerMac has a metal case, but it would be almost in contact with the wood.

    I've found a fire resistant paint that looks good, so I will likely go that route.

    And the school fire was traced to the server. There were a lot of papers around that made the fire spread easily.
     
  25. Eniregnat macrumors 68000

    Eniregnat

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2003
    Location:
    In your head.
    #25
    Fire resistant paint will help a little, but I don’t think it will do much.

    Put a smoke detector over it, I still think that your over reacting if you don't have an ansil system installed in your kitchen, the number one source of home fires.

    If you really want to do it well, I might go this rout. The way to fort fire is to remove any on of the key elements, fuel, heat/fire, and oxygen.

    So build an airtight box, or at least one that is only gas permeable on top. You might get an old steel fridge and cut a hole in the top. Then allow CO2 gas to slowly seep in at a slow and constant rate. Presto, you have remove O2 while not disturbing anybody other than your insurance adjuster, who will have no recourse but to give you some sort of discount.

    Another option would be to get a mettle cabinet and surround it with brick. Kiln bricks would be the best, as they are light and have the best insulating characters.

    If money is no object, get a Halon system. Just make sure nobody is around when it goes off.

    I would be worried about frying the computer if your attic gets hot, but that’s me. Also a turn key solution would be to buy a double walled steel reagent closet. Some chem. labs use them.

    Good luck, and I hope you system is flame free.
     

Share This Page