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The Case of the Dog Food Stealing, Fire Starting Mouse

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It started out as a beautiful summer day.  On this particular day, the home owner decided to take their dog for a walk, open the windows to let some fresh air into the house, and then clean the oven. The oven was part of a Frigidaire brand gas range. Since this range featured a self-cleaning oven option, the owner thought the task at hand would be a breeze.

A self-cleaning oven cleans itself with very high temperatures, which then reduces the soil inside the oven to a fine powdered ash that can be wiped away. The temperature reached during a self-cleaning cycle (900 degrees Fahrenheit) is much higher than normal cooking temperatures which are between 170 to 550 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The owner followed the manufacture instructions and started the self-cleaning cycle on her oven. This cycle was set to last three hours.  Approximately an hour and a half later the owner was in the living room and started to smell smoke.  At the same time the home smoke detector started sounding.  The owner followed the smoke smell to the kitchen.  Upon entering the kitchen, the owner saw heavy smoke and fire emanating from the left side of their gas range.  In a panic she grabbed the phone and called 9-1-1. The fire department arrived quickly and put the fire out.  Luckily for the owner, fire damage was limited to the immediate area around the oven.

Blaze Fire Investigation was called out to the scene to examine the gas range and determine the cause of the fire.  Our investigators interviewed the homeowner and performed a complete examination of the fire scene.  The only ignition source found in the area of fire origin was the Frigidaire brand gas range.  The range was collected and examined in a laboratory setting.

An examination in the laboratory showed an intense burn pattern on the left exterior side of the oven. An examination of the inside of the oven compartment showed very little fire damage.  The outer metal housing of the oven was removed.  The insulation surrounding the oven compartment was heavily burned and soot stained on its left side. Wire insulation was also burned away on all the conductors along the left side.  A closer examination of the conductors showed no evidence of an electrical fault. The metal top of the oven was removed and the area below the gas burners was examined. The insulation was partially burned and remnants of dog food and mice feces were found packed on top of the insulation surround the oven compartment.  The dog food remains were burned and charred.  A burn test was performed on the dog food and it was found to ignite easily and sustain flame.

After a complete investigation using the scientific method, our investigators determined the fire was caused by the ignition of dog food that was placed inside the outer housing of the kitchen range by mice.  The dog food was ignited when the oven temperatures reached as high as 900 degrees Fahrenheit and continued to burn and ignite other nearby combustible materials.

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