Consulting and Expert Testimony

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Cause and Origin

Project: Hartford vs. Gotham Bay / Cause & Origin, Code Compliance, Construction Defect, Fire

During the morning preparation period before the lunch crowd rush, a fire started in the Chicken! Chicken! Restaurant in Burlingame, CA.  The fire quickly spread through the building and destroyed two neighboring businesses resulting in a multimillion dollar loss.

Working with architect Dennis Govan, AIA, and fire investigator Russ Auker (Ron Hall & Associates), we created a detailed set of as-built plans of the building, structure, restaurant, oven enclosure, oven hood & fire suppression system, exhaust duct system, & supply duct system.  We located the origin of the fire in the attic space above the oven enclosure.  We also demonstrated that there were no ignitions sources near the origin.

WCP&A then created a detailed combustion, heat transfer, & fluid flow model of the oven and enclosure. Using this model, we demonstrated that the ignition source was self-heating to ignition of the wood framing above the oven.  We demonstrated that the proximate cause of the high temperatures that allows this self-heating to occur was breakage of a fan belt to the exhaust duct fan.  We demonstrated that the design of the oven was not suitable for use with a standard food-service-equipment hood or being framed into an enclosure; this was a violation of a variety of codes and standards.