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Fire Accident Cases and Violations of New York’s Fuel Gas Code

Our New York personal injury attorneys have handled accident, personal injury and wrongful death cases of every kind including explosions, burn and fire cases. An explosion or fire is a dreadful and frightening thing to live through and it often leaves its victims scarred for life, both physically and emotionally.

Our fire case lawyers routinely work with highly experienced engineers and retired fire marshals to determine the origin and cause of a fire as well as who is responsible for causing the fire. All too often both commercial and residential building owners and contractors take short cuts with electrical, gas and plumbing work which can cause drastic results. New York State and several municipalities, such as the City of New York, Westchester County and even the City of White Plains have enacted several codes which seek to prevent explosions and fires from occurring. A violation of these codes is strong evidence of fault and helps establish that a particular property owner is responsible for the fire or explosion. Our New York City and Westchester accident attorneys are familiar with the various Code sections and the following is a brief summary of the common code sections that come up in fire cases.

Many times a careless installation or repair permits a gas leak to occur and when the gas interacts with an ignition source, such as a pilot light, an electrical switch or other source of heat, such as an electric spark when an appliance is turned on, a sudden fire erupts. The New York Fuel Gas Code has several provisions that are intended to prevent gas and flammable substance accidents including flash fires and explosions. For example New York Fuel Gas Code section 103.5 requires that repairs, alterations, installations and maintenance of all gas lines be performed in a good and workmanlike manner and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Likewise,

New York Fuel Gas Code Section 406.7.1 requires that when any gas system is undergoing repair, service, modification or other work that the gas supply for the section being worked on must be turned off at the nearest convenient point and the line pressure vented to outdoors or a ventilated area that is large enough to prevent accumulation of dangerous substances.

Another issue is outdated service lines. Insurance defense lawyers will often argue that they were in compliance with the codes because of grandfathering. In general gas lines that were in compliance with a code at the time they were built do not need to adhere to current standards, however, New York’s Fuel Gas Code Section 102.7 only permits the continuation of these outdated fuel service system if and only if they do not pose a hazard to the health and safety of property or people. So when there is a fire or explosion, grandfathering does not apply because the building owner allowed the fuel service system to become dangerous. So the grandfathering provision does not apply in situations where an originally safe fuels service system was allowed to fall into a dangerous condition. New York State’s Fuel Service Code Section 301.9 states that defective parts or materials of the fuel service system must be repaired or replaced so that they are in compliance with their original approval or listing.

Where houses are built in areas prone to flooding, fire is a real hazard where for example, water puts out a pilot and then gas accumulates. So the New York State Fuel Hazard Code Section 301.11 requires that appliances, equipment and fuel system installations below the flood zone must be waterproofed so that water cannot get into its components and capable of withstanding hydrostatic and hydrodynamic stresses.

Another issue which our New York City and Westchester accident attorneys have dealt with is where substances that give off flammable vapors are sprayed while ignition sources are still active. Many people don’t understand that flammable vapors travel and can interact with a pilot light, electrical switch or other source of heat at some distance from the area where the substance is sprayed. Often paint, a pesticide or aerosol can is sufficient to interact with an ignition source and cause an explosion. Often there is no access to turn off the pilot light in stoves, which is a code violation because the New York State Fuel Code Section 306.1 requires that there be sufficient clearance around appliances to inspection, service, repair and replacement without removing permanent fixtures. New York Fuel Code Section 409 also requires functional shut off valves that are accessible so that gas is not permitted to flow in an area where work with substances that give off flammable vapors is occurring.

Gas leaks in newly installed pipes are also a major hazard. New York’s Fuel Gas Code Section 406.6.4 requires that prior to any newly installed gas line being placed in service, it must be inspected and tested to make sure the system is gas leak free.

If you or a family member have been injured, killed or suffered property damage from a fire, our New York City and Westchester personal injury and wrongful death lawyers are ready to help. Our attorneys regularly handle cases in White Plains and all of Westchester including Port Chester, Mamaroneck, Bronxville, Rye, Scardale, Purchase, Pelham, Greenburgh, Ossining, Poughkeepsie, Yonkers, Elmsford, Mt Vernon, New Rochelle and Hartsdale. Our New York City injury lawyers also regularly appear in all of the New York Supreme Courts in New York City including the Bronx, Manhattan (New York County), Brooklyn (Kings County) and Queens.

The Law Offices of Michael H. Joseph