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A note about storage and fire safety

I had set up my basement workshop so that all of my bench top abrasive tools and materials were located and stored on one workbench with drawer storage underneath. On the top of this bench I had positioned a bench grinder and a 1" belt sander.

I was minding my business sharpening a chisel when I felt some heat near my groin and simultaneously smelled smoke. Looking down I realized that some sparks from the grinder had entered a partially open drawer and ignited some steel wool!!

I quickly shut off the grinder, yanked out the steel wool (HOT!!!) and drowned it in the quenching pan for the grinder and shoved the drawer closed. I then grabbed my fire extinguisher before re-opening the drawer and checking the remainder of the drawers to be sure no embers remained.

Lessons learned (or at least driven home!):

  1. Steel wool is coated with oil and will burn vigorously. (In fact the Boy Scouts show its use for starting fires with batteries!!) Thus it probably should be stored with your flammable materials (my choice) or at least away from the potential for sparks or flame!
  2. Make sure you have fire extinguishers available!! (They should be positioned near the exit(s) to your shop so if you go to get the extinguisher and then realize the fire is too big you are close to the exit) You obviously don't want to be in a situation where you need to reach over a fire to grab the extinguisher. This applies also to your kitchen area. Extinguishers also need to be of the proper size and category for your hazards.
  3. Another reason for keeping water available for the quenching tub.

Greg Taylor

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