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do not call the fire marshalll: not at all costs (long)

updated tue 2 dec 03


Craig Dunn Clark on mon 1 dec 03

I'll own up to being the one who suggested the fire marshall should be
called if the professor (allegedly incompetent when it comes to kilns, their
construction, firing and maintenance), the chair of the department and the
dean all choose to not act, for whatever reason, beyond an ill advised and
executed patch for the alleged problems with the chimney, resultant fire (a
small easily extinguished one) and a continuing fire concern.
I am speaking from experience here. At a small school that I attended
the professor who competently ran the program went on sabbatical for a year.
The man they hired was less than desirable, lacked real concern for the
program, any zeal for teaching and was admittedly hired (I learned this
after the fact) based almost solely on the fact that his resume indicated
that he had been a student of Peter Volkous.
While I was out of the state for an iron pour at another university the
professor left an completely unqualified student to fire a salt kiln that
was set up across campus in less than ideal conditions. The student got
bored with the firing, left before the kiln reached red heat (there was not
a real safety system just a couple jury rigged thermacouples), and there
was a resultant "ka-boom" which blew out the bricked up door and caught some
wood on fire in the surrounding area. I know about the specifics because the
kiln was only about a block from the campus police station and I knew the
officer who went running to the scene as well as the fire investigator.
No one was hurt, luckly the student had not decided to doze off close to
the kiln. The officer who ran over had enough awareness to cut off the gas
supply to the kiln, grab a fire extinguisher, put out the flaming plywood
and call his buddy over at the fire station. They kept things as quiet as
they were able considering that there had been an explosion. After that all
the kilns were retrofitted with the proper safety equipment for an
institutional setting where the possiblility of poorly trained individuals m
ay end up firing a kiln. In this case I mean students without proper
training or professors who in my opinion should not have recieved their
degrees to begin with without having this very basic technical knowledge.
If it hadn't been for the good-ole-boy system of which I was a part the
news would have gotten out and the university could have faced considerable
trouble. I was amazed at how quickly the money which had not been there
suddenly dropped out of thin air. THe speed with which needed repairs were
made was breath taking. None of us made any threats, pointed any fingers
(though the twit who was hired to fill in for the prof on sabbatical was let
go at the end of the following semester) and luckly the small fire was
contained quickly and no one was hurt.
However, the senario may have been entirely different. No program is
worth the life of any student, fire fighter or ill informed proffessor. I am
not being an overzealous safety nut. Reasonable people disagree on what is
acceptable anywhere when it comes to these things.
What I am saying is that the situation described by the student sounds
like a very dangerous one. If the student is not exagerating there is the
real danger of a real fire.....not just a small one that is put out easily
with a hand held extinguisher. I don't have any idea what their kiln room is
like but if it is not the typical metal shed roof construction with steel
structure then there is a definite problem.
At the very same school that I attended, a couple years later, while I
was being a reporter for the school newspaper, the Engineering II building
burned to the gound. It took several fire trucks to put out the blaze in the
20,000 square foot two story structure.
The fire investigator traced the source of the blaze to some sheets of
plywood that one of the engineering professors had use to build a box around
a beam that they were stress testing in a variety of evironments over an
extended period of time. It was reported that as a result of "severe
porosity" in the plywood caused by a couple of flood lights that illuminated
the interior of the box the material combusted from the heat of the lamps at
a temperature far below what one would normally think plywood would burn
(454 F). It was most likely the binders used between the veneers of the wood
that volatalized. Kablooooiiiiieeeeee!
The school was a small one, I new practically everyone, and found out
after the fact that one of the grad students had suggested the possibility
of this very scenario to her professor. He told her not to be overly
concerned. She persisted and he asked her how much being a part of the
graduate program meant to her and then finally persuaded her calmly that
"nothing" could really happen. From what I was told that happened about a
month before the blaze........
Rant over
Craig Dunn Clark (who has used chunks of coke from the foundry as "safety
pilots" until red heat was reached.......but I never left the
kiln.....honest......that's my story and I'm stickin to it
619 East 11 1/2 st
Houston, Texas 77008

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kenneth Guill"
Sent: Monday, December 01, 2003 4:25 AM
Subject: Re: Do not call the fire marshalll

> Just had my yearly visit from the Safety inspector*( Same old same
> old-"Where is your safety clothing?" Every year I have to explain that the
> kiln is an electric kiln and that I don't need a face shield or kevlar
> gloves. But like you guys were saying just don't blow up at them-explain
> again calmly.
> Send postings to
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