Stevens Creek Canyon Fire

Working with CAL FIRE we investigated the cause of a major forest fire that originated near a PG&E 12 kV utility line.






Muchhala v USA

In this case, Dr. Rhodes worked for Defendant, United States of America. A young man climbed a metallic power pole with 12kV, three-phase power at the top. He was shocked, fell to the ground, and was later pronounced dead. His family sued the National Park Service. At trial, Dr. Rhodes testified about the nature of the shock and the lethality of injuries from the shock compared to the fall. Since this case was heard as a bench trial, the Judge issued a written decision and found USA was not liable.


Skyline Homes v Spraytech

In this ongoing case, an employee was shocked while using a paint sprayer. Our forensic analysis found arc damage on the inside of the paint sprayer housing. This arc damage was adjacent to what appeared to be pinch damage to a "hot" wire. This in combination with an intermittent ground connection at the plug appears to be the cause of the shock.








Lightning Damage

This was an insurance type investigation and is interesting from an electrical engineering point of view. Lightning hit on or near a building housing public utility offices. While there was no obvious external point of contact, a wide variety of electrical equipment inside the building was damaged. During our inspection we noticed that most of the damaged devices were computers or computer peripherals and most of the damage centered around the network connections. The photo shows part of a router and the arc damage is clear above port #14. Normally, lightning damage is caused by connection to the power lines that are often hit by lightning. In this instance, the network cables going all over the building formed giant ground loops that acted like antennas. The pulsed magnetic field surrounding the lightning then induced large voltages around these loops. Where the insulation was insufficient, arcs occurred like the one in the photo. This type of damage could be completely prevented by using fiber optic network cables instead of the more common twisted pair style cable. While fiber optic network components may be more expensive, in lightning prone areas they might be less expensive in the long run.

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