Ask an Expert: Electrical Fires

Ask An Expert is a question-and-answer column designed to address common questions related to forensic investigation and property damage. Each month we’ll feature one or two questions submitted by you – our readers and customers – and provide detailed, easy-to-understand answers. Email your questions to [email protected] or submit your questions here.


Does the energy of lightning strikes vary by geography? For example, is lightning energy different in FL versus NY?

A: To our knowledge, there is no difference in the amount of energy based on geography. However, the frequency or the number of lightning strikes varies geographically.


Can surge protectors connected to computers, TVs, etc. prevent damage from lightning strikes?

A: In reality, the amount of energy a surge protector can dissipate is very small in comparison to the energy produced by lightning. They protect against power surges created by the utilities in the course of their normal operations, but they will not protect against lightning.


It’s my understanding that the StrikeNet equipment is not fail-safe, and that it sometimes fails to record lightning strikes. Do you know if this is true? What I’m looking for is the confidence level we can place in a report that shows no lightning.

A: StrikeNet claims the confidence level is about 99% accurate. It is allowable in a court of law as evidence of a lightning strike.


Is there much subrogation success with CSST failures in a lightning strike?

A: Yes, this is a very common avenue of subrogation.


Are all space heaters hazardous?

A: When operated properly, without undersized extension cords, and with appropriate clearances to combustibles, they are typically safe. The fires we see are more often than not user related issues.


Can arc mapping be done by an O&C or should it only be done by an EE?

 A: Given the appropriate training, either expert can perform arc mapping.



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About the Expert

Mr. Frank Miller joined Donan in 2007 and currently serves as a forensic engineer based out of the firm’s Dallas, Texas office. Mr. Miller has worked in the following industries: aviation, aerospace, automotive manufacturing, computer networks design and support, and plumbing. His areas of expertise are electrical issues, electronics, solar energy, and fire investigation. Mr. Miller’s additional project capabilities include appliance failures, plumbing issues, sewer systems, machinery failures, and vehicle failures, among others. Mr. Miller is a licensed professional engineer in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia and Washington. He holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Youngstown State University, and a Bachelor’s and Associate degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from Pennsylvania State University.

 View Mr. Miller’s full professional profile here.

Mr. James Enos joined Donan in 2007 and currently serves as regional fire manager for the firm’s south region. He has 35 years of fire service experience, and has conducted more than 900 fire investigations. Mr. Enos is a Certified Fire Investigator, a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator, and a Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator. Mr. Enos is also a Private Investigator in Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia, and a Certified Asbestos Inspector in Tennessee. Jim frequently lectures on fire science and fire subrogation topics, and is a seasoned and court-tested expert on fire origin and cause.

View Mr. Enos’s full professional profile here.


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