My last call today was a cleaning on a thermopride furnace in a small closet. Also inside this closet was a propane water heater.
I go in and start doing the normal routine for a cleaning. Changed the filter, cleaned the pump strainer.
Without even THINKING about it, the whole time I had my slop bucket, (which is nothing more than a prestone can with the side cut out that I use to change the filter, bleed, ETC.) RIGHT IN FRONT of this propane water heater.
I take out the drawer assembly and start spraying it down with carberator cleaner, which is what we always use to clean up oil burner parts.
I spray it down, and get my wrenches to take out the nozzle. As I am putting the wrenches to the nozzle, I hear "Whoof", and my slop bucket is all of a sudden on fire.
What had happened was, when I was spraying the carb cleaner, the fumes from it traveled to the pilot light of the water heater and ignited, setting my slop bucket on fire.
It took me a few seconds to gather what had happened after "What thee hell?" went through my mind. I blew on the fire in an attempt to get it out but it only made it worse.
Luckily, this job was a walk-in job,(House built on a slab, furnace in a closet in the middle of the house) and the front door was not far.
I pick up my slop bucket and rushed it out the door to the end of the driveway, it burning proudly. I almost could not even handle it anymore before I set it down it was so hot. As I am carrying it outside, I set off every fire alarm in the house.
I had set the slop bucket down next to my truck at the end of the driveway, (intentionally, to keep it out of the grass or anywhere flamable.)
I had a bucket of speedy dry on my truck and I quickly opened it and smothered the flames on the burning slop bucket.
After letting it cool down, I dumped the good speedy dry back into the bucket, and this is all that was left of my poor slop bucket.
Folks, this is just proof that you just can not be too careful out there and that you can not take things for granted.
I have been servicing oil burners for 4 1/2 years now, and have had my slop bucket on every job, just setting it down somewhere, not even THINKING about where I am putting it.
So many things could have happened had I not reacted in time. Imagine if that slop bucket had melted to the point where it could no longer hold oil while I was carrying it out of the house. At that, I am lucky that it did not melt to that point while it was in the driveway, as the driveway sloped down toward the house and the customer's vehicle was parked less than 10 feet away.
What if I had just cleaned all my parts and then went out to my truck to get something, and this happened while I was outside?
Or in a rush to get it outside while carrying it it got to hot to handle and I ended up dropping it in the house?
Or even if this happened in a basement and it was a long haul to a safe place to set it down outside?
Guys, so much can go wrong out there that we just don't think about.
Every day, we all go out to work just like it is an ordinary day, not knowing, or even expecting, something like this to happen.
I was just damn lucky today and that's all there is to it.
The Lord was looking out for me today for sure.
This will definatly make me THINK now where I set my slop bucket or use flamable materials.
Just be careful out there folks, that's all I have to say. I'd much rather post here that I had a close call and learned a lesson, than I would to post that I burned someone's house down and could be charged with criminal negligance and that a family has no place to sleep tonight.
For those on here that service oil equipment, PLEASE keep this in mind, and for EVERYONE on here, no matter what kind of equipment you service, JUST DON'T TAKE STUFF FOR GRANTED.
I hope this post will be a lesson to someone BEFORE it happens to them.
[Edited by ct_hvac_tech on 09-23-2005 at 08:07 PM]