There has been prior research exploring the exposure of common electrical cords and cables to fire, but that has traditionally been at the lab scale and under near steady-state exposures. The goal of these experiments was to expose six types of cords and cables in a room-scale compartment with a fuel load sufficient to drive the compartment through flashover. The basic test design was to expose the cords and cables on the floor of a compartment to a growing fire to determine the conditions under which the cord/cable would trip the circuit protection device. All of the cords were energized and installed on a non-combustible surface. The six cables and cords were protected by three different circuit protection devices which were remote from the thermal exposure. This configuration resulted in 18 exposures per experiment. The room fires experiments consisted of three replicate fires with two sofas as the main fuel source, two replicate fires with one sofa as the main fuel source and one fire with two sofas and vinyl-covered MDF paneling on three walls in the room. Each fuel package was sufficient to support flashover conditions in the room. The average peak heat release rate of the sofa fueled compartment fires with gypsum board ceiling and walls prior to suppression was 6.8 MW. The addition of vinyl covered MDF wall paneling on three of the compartment walls increased the pre-suppression peak heat release rate to 12 MW. In each experiment during post flashover exposure, the insulation on the cords and cables ignited and burned through, exposing bare wire. During this period, the circuits faulted. Assessments of both the thermal exposure and physical damage to the cords did not reveal any correlation between the thermal exposure, cord/cable damage, and trip type.
Fire investigation Electrical cords Flashover exposure Electrical cable