PFO home remodel: AKA tank fire.

Discussion in 'New to the hobby?' started by ReefJr, Dec 3, 2009.

  1. ReefJr

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    Hey guys, I am not looking for sympathy here but wanted to post this for your safety. Honestly it all good. (long post sorry)

    If I did this right you will find pictures in the photo album under my profile. I also have more pictures at: http://RichMomentsPhotography.zenfolio.com/p844913878

    Thanksgiving morning I had some time to kill before we left for our Thanksgiving celebration with family. I have maintained two saltwater tanks (poorly I may add) for a number of years. In parallel with getting more active in the hobby I have been downsizing and in the process of combing the two tanks, a 90 and a 180 into one.

    Thanksgiving morning I preformed the normal maintenance in the 90 gallon tank in our living room. A quick water top off, wipe down the inside and outside of the tank and a few other tank-keeping chores. I also added a new circulation pump to one corner of the tank.

    Brief time table:

    11:00 left for Thanksgiving Celebration
    3:30 Daughter stopped to let the dog out on her way to Grandma's.
    A little after 6:00, frantic call from neighbor about alarm and plastic burning smell.
    6:30 arrive home to 6 fire trucks
    7:00 on the phone with insurance to set-up temp housing.

    From talking to another neighbor, the house alarm was first heard at about 4:30, he thought it was a car alarm. (see how much I am saving by not having my home alarm monitored?)

    About 6:00 another neighbor heard the alarm and investigated. Plastic could be smelled burning. I was called in parallel with the Fire department. The fire department arrived within minutes of the call. (thanks guys) however the fire was already out. They rescued a dog in the upper bedroom, the bird feet from ground zero and began to vent the house.

    Initially I thought the cord for the powerhead I had added that morning looked to have started the fire but on further investigation it points more toward the PFO VHO fluorescents. There were 2 PFO Metal Halides also in the hood which were not in use at the time of the fire.

    6 months ago I disassembled the lighting and filtering system to clean and check all connections etc. I am an electronics technician by trade and work with high voltage so have at least a little clue when it comes to this stuff

    The lighting and tank plastic began to burn and then caught the hood. The hood and lighting collapsed into the tank extinguishing itself. Part of the plastic overflow fell behind the tank and to the floor igniting the carpet and tank stand. The heat from this portion of the fire cracked the back and bottom of the tank. The 90 gallon tank breached, extinguishing the rest of the fire.

    The fire was contained to the plastic of the top rim of the tank, the wood tank hood, the wood stand and some scorching of the drywall and carpet below. There is little structural damage and no one was hurt. Smoke damage on all four levels and saltwater damage to two.

    The two year old furnace will again be replaced due to smoke and saltwater ingestion and we will at least have new carpet and paint on two levels. The 13 month old front door will be replaced and there is talk about vacuuming out the 4 year old insulation in the attic and replacing it with new due to the smoke damage. Many other surfaces will have to be cleaned, sealed and or replaced.

    We did choose to have a 15 year old German Sheppard put down so that she would not suffer from the smoke inhalation she experienced. This was on top of her arthritic hips and other health issues. Somehow our cockatiel, being 8 feet away survived and is doing well at this point. The inhabitants of the tank are gone of course. I have a second tank down stairs (180) and the one inhabitant a 6" Red Sea Sailfin tang is surviving so far. Given the current events I might not move him upstairs now.

    We are blessed in so many ways. I am thankful for all our friends and family, I am thankful that the 7 of us were not sleeping at the time this occurred. I am thankful the insurance company has been so thorough in making sure we are taken care of. We have hired a contractor to handle the clean up, we will be living in a comfortable extended stay hotel until sometime in January, the kids are all happy and doing great.

    Now if I could only get the smell of BBQ'ed fish tank out of my nose.

    The damage in the tank was substantial enough that the exact cause was not determined but it is assumed some connection in the VHO lighting became faulty over time. As I said I have been pretty meticulous about maintenance in recent months, something was missed.

    Be sure your smoke detectors in the area of your tanks are replaced once a year. Be sure you tie a knot in cords or at least have a drip loop in each cord leading to a power source. Be sure and replace your outlet strips every two years or as they show signs of tank weathering or salt crawl. Saltwater does a number on all of these items.

    It looks like I will be again taking a break from the hobby for a while. At this point I will need to find a home for the Sailfin and I think I am going to try to find a buyer for the 180 or at leas the liverock and possibly the sand although there are a number of tubeworms in that tank.
     
  2. 2b4everGreen

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    Sorry to hear about your losses, dog and fish. The building can be replaced but what a challenge to be displaced...hope it works out well.
     
  3. OP
    ReefJr

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    Thanks. So far it's all good.
     
  4. kbb0118

    kbb0118 Itty Bitty Sea Creatures
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    Holy cow neighbor. Thank you for telling your story. It reminds me that I have some work to do on mine! I hope you are home for Christmas. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.
     
  5. hypertech

    hypertech East Coast Chapter President
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    I don't know what to say other than that really sucks.

    This is a good reminder for everyone to use drip loops. If you don't know what they are, look it up. Every cord should have a drip loop on it.
     
  6. OP
    ReefJr

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    Thanks for the reply and words of encouragement. We have everything we need and are doing fine with not being in the house for Christmas. Wish it could be better but thankful it is not worse.

    I do have some solace in the fact that this was not a drip loop issue or something I did or didn't do directly. This was something that went wrong high in the hood. Not much left to determine what it was though.

    The investagating engineer did say that this was the third hood fire he had seen this year.
     
  7. Mike Bennett

    Mike Bennett Decapodian
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    Thanks again for the helpful reminders of the actual seriousness of what can happen. I just realized that I missed a few drip loops in my setup.

    Sorry to hear about the fire, I wish you the best of luck with everything going forward.
     
  8. OP
    ReefJr

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    The remainign Sailfin has been through allot. Had lateral lines when I first got him. I am going to contact the local shops and see if anyone is interested in him and the live rock. Not sure if I should sell him just in case he does not survive. I would say he is 5-6" Great temperament. He was the last to be moved up to the 90 before the BBQ.

    I will see if I can get a picture up tonight. As far as I know he is in good heath all things considered.
     
    #8 ReefJr, Dec 3, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2009
  9. DamselDebbie

    DamselDebbie I contributed!
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    Sorry to hear about your loss. The cleanup and renovating due to smoke damage is an absolute nightmare, but I'm glad that your insurance company is being so helpful. "I am thankful the insurance company has been so thorough in making sure we are taken care of. " Maybe you could tell us who your insurance company is, as good customer service is so hard to come by. And it truly is a blessing that you and your family were not home or sleeping. Everything can be replaced.
     
  10. OP
    ReefJr

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    American Family Insurance. I hired a General Contractor out of Stillwater who specializes in this type of clean up. Frank Fabio Conpany is the contractor. I am very pleased with both. They have proveded the service you would exspect and hope to have in a situation like this.
     
  11. hypertech

    hypertech East Coast Chapter President
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    AmFam was also very good with our storm damage claim a few years back. They resided the whole house and provided a new roof. The contractor called wanting to put a higher grade siding on and next thing you knew, we had more money.

    Not only were they quick and easy about paying out, they are still the lowest rate I can find.
     
  12. OP
    ReefJr

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    I have always cringed at those who "save money" with bargain rates for insurance although I must say the times I have price checked Am Fam has always been very competitive if not the lowest.
     
  13. David Grigor

    David Grigor TCMAS Old Timer
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    While it may not be 100% conclusive in your case, I've heard issues with VHO endcaps throughout the years. I've had some that were years old and take them apart and the plastic is quite yellow from the heat and replaced them.

    The Italian 2 piece style endcaps were more prone to fires though than the germain 3 piece style endcaps.
     
  14. OP
    ReefJr

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    Good to know. Not knowing the difference I believe I had the older 3 piece. They were purchased around spring of 1999 or so.

    When I checked mine they were slightly yellowed but did not seem to be enough for concern.

    Next time I might re-think that decision.
     
  15. David Grigor

    David Grigor TCMAS Old Timer
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    Next time would likely be T5s. The have a considerable amount more air space between the diameter of the bulb and the actual caps.
     
  16. Becky

    Becky Banned

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    I would be willing to hold the sailfin for you...I'm looking for a tang to kinda babysit (ie eat algae)
     
  17. OP
    ReefJr

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    Becky, it might be a temporary permanent solution. I am not sure how soon I will be set up again or if I will continue on the hobby. The fate of my 180 is uncertain but at this point it will have to come down so that they can complete the work on the house.

    At one point I had talked to David about his experiences building tanks into a wall. Not sure what I will do long term.

    PM me and we can exchange emails to figure out a plan if you want to take it, for the immediate future, no strings.

    Rich
     
  18. fivesmallworlds

    fivesmallworlds Halichoeres Bivittatus

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    WOW! I'm glad you and your family are alright!

    This is really eerie to me as this morning (3:05 am) the fire alarm in our apartment building went off. Woke my wife and I right out of our slumber. First thing I did was dart to the room with my 75g tank to see if I was causing the fire...

    Luckily all was well with the tank and there was no fire or smoke. I cut all the power to the tank, threw on some clothes and headed downstairs and outside. Fire dept and police came (two squads and a Ramsey Fire Pickup) took a look at the fire alarm system and concluded it went off in error. There was NO fire. Thank GOODNESS!!!

    After that experience this morning, fire safety with my tank has been in the forefront of my mind. Now hearing your story concludes the fact that the second I get home from work today I have some changes to make.

    I hope all goes well with the remodel! Should you need anything please let us know.
     
  19. Jager

    Jager TCMAS Event Committee
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    seriously sorry to hear.

    especially about your fish and dog, extremely tough.

    Glad to hear you and yours were not home, sounds like the alrarm would have alerted you but the inhalation of some of those items burning can be extremely bad for your lungs and body if not fatal.

    I hope the contractors can get you guys up and running quick, rough time for this to happen but your family can still be together for the holidays thats whats important.

    If you guys need any help with anything, now or when/if you set up another tank, please dont hesitate to let us know, im sure i can speak for many members in that we are willing to help you out.

    Drip loops are a big issue, this also shows the important roll a GFCI or AFCI circuit/outlet can play, as well as light ventilation. Every aspect of a tank build has important considerations, none should be over looked or taken lightly even if they seem small or unimportant. Lets not also forget to consider overloading our circuits, with MH lighting ive seens a few tanks (member tanks) who have way to much wattage being drawn from single circuits. There is a reason these are called accidents, but we can still try our best to avoid them.
     
  20. David Grigor

    David Grigor TCMAS Old Timer
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    the one nice thing about a fish room vs. all stuffed under the stand, is that you can design with all your electrical outlets located above and not below.

    Except for a single wall plug behind the show tank, all of my outlets and power strips above the tanks at eye level or higher.
     

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