Advice to Energy Managers: Don’t Play with Fire


The most important job of energy managers and, for that matter, anyone else who works in any capacity in a facility setting is to keep tenants and visitors safe. Other important tasks – saving money and enhancing comfort, for instance – are vital. But they take a back seat to physically protecting people and property.

During the past month, there have been at least six reports of fires related to HVAC systems. The commonalities are that they tend to be in small facilities and that none led to serious injuries or fatalities.

In mid-December, a malfunctioning HVAC unit led to smoky conditions at a West Ashley, SC, apartment complex, according to the Post and Currier. Units from three municipalities responded to an apartment. No fire was found, the story said.

During the last week of December, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported that a propane-fed HVAC unit caught fire at Wakefield-Vette, a business in Pelham. The unit was extinguished and no injuries were reported.

On December 28, a mechanical failure in an HVAC exhaust unit led at LeadFeather Guns & Archery in Winter Haven, Florida led to carbon monoxide emissions that caused two people to faint, according to FireEngineering. The dangerous levels of carbon monoxide were detected by Polk County Fire Rescue crews called to the scene when the first person fainted. That person refused treatment, but the second fainted before first responders left. That led them to test for carbon monoxide, the story said.

at a On January 3, the odor of natural gas led firefighters to be called to a hotel in Lake Geneva, WI, according to Fox6Now. Eventually, the automatic fire alarm went off. Firefighters found that a rooftop HVAC was ablaze. The fire was extinguished and no injuries reported.

On January 6, the Perryville (KY) fire department was called to the Perryville Elementary School after an alarm was activated. They found smoke in the cafeteria area, which was caused by a bird’s nest that had caught fire in a rooftop HVAC unit, according to the Advocate-Messenger News.

On January 7, a fire was reported at Zaxby’s Chicken Fingers & Buffalo Wings in Charleston, S.C., according to the Post and Currier. Responding units found that an HVAC unit was ablaze. The fire was extinguished before it spread beyond the device. An investigation found that the fire started in the rooftop element of system and spread to the equipment in the building.

All of these stories rated only short stories in local media. However, each and every one of them could have led to far more serious results, including deaths. Energy managers must be vigilant.

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