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Friday, 30 May 2014 00:00

Greensboro, NC, Shop Fire Prompts Review of Portable Lights Used in Shops, Dept of Labor Investigating

Three months after a fire that burned through Import Knight Auto Repair near downtown Greensboro, NC, and sent four firefighters to the hospital, the North Carolina Department of Labor found no violations in how the Greensboro Fire Department responded to the incident. However, the state agency is recommending that the agency take a close look at the sort of portable light that ignited that blaze on January 30, 2014.

The North Carolina Department of Labor said it found “no apparent violations,” but Greensboro Police Department officials said they would do a better job of inspecting auto repair shops and of ensuring that those shops operated appropriately.


The Department of Labor is required to investigate any time there is an accident that sends three or more employees to the hospital. The most seriously injured firefighter remained at the medical center for 18 days for burns and other injuries. One senior firefighter whose leg was broken in two places has not returned to work.

The fire started when a portable light was accidentally dropped on the floor of the auto body shop, according to the fire department’s report. The light fell on gasoline that leaked from a car that was on a lift. The fire spread quickly from the ground to the car on the lift, then up to the roof, making the fire more significant.

A closer inspection of the type of lights auto body shops use is being conducted. The Department of Labor said, via letter, “the Fire Department’s Inspection group will start examining and troubleshooting lights in auto repair shops to determine compliance for use and approval in hazardous locations.”

Suitable portable lights have handles, hooks, and guards attached to the handle or lamp holder, according to the Department of Labor code. All battery areas and wiring should be protected with insulation.

“Experience has shown that the majority of fires and explosions associated with portable lamp use in service garages have been caused by flammable liquid contacting an exposed hot lamp bulb. The thermal shock from the liquid shatters the lamp bulb glass, and the hot filament ignites the vapors,” the code reads.

Most commercial businesses are inspected every three years, a fire marshall said. He has sent information about portable lights to the fire inspectors in his department.

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