Early morning around 5:15 am today (23rd June 2018) I heard my daughter shouting "Aunty, Aunty" and "Daddy, Daddy". I woke up to the alarming / shouting and quickly gathered that there was a blaze in neighbor's sidewalk adjoining our compound wall. Saw that it was a small fractional-horse-power Tullu pump meant for pumping water from sump to Overhead Tank, burning away with a great stench of rubber melting. By that time upstairs tenant of my neighbor (owner - old lady living alone) had come down with a couple of torches. He had seen the flame from atop, switched off the mains and rushed to the spot. In about ten minutes the flames (at peak, around 8 feet high) subsided; he managed to remove the metal 'protector' to the motor assembly and douse the remainder of fire with thick wet cloth.
It rained heavily during the night and was drizzling when the fire was discovered. The atmosphere was very cool. The motor was NOT on. The pump wasn't directly under rain. What triggered the fire is a mystery. What triggered my daughter to wake up to the fire is also a mystery – might be the smell of rubber or wire insulation burning away. She had gone to sleep after a midnight birthday party of my other side neighbor's daughter and slept around 1:30 am and wasn't expected to get up at that early hour.
Spontaneous combustion of dry leaves or wooden / bamboo pieces, during hot season, is understandable. Dry dust explosions of wheat or maida floor in flour mills are known. Short circuiting by some lizard caught between equipment terminals may be a reason. But will that occur when there is no power? I heard that the switch may at times be connected via a phase line instead of neutral line; could that be a cause? Don't know.
Having worked in an explosives factory, documenting unusual occurrences from Safety point of view is part of my blood. Hence this note. Unfortunately this report cannot be enriched with a photo, as I am not the type of FaceBook crazy guy who would rather video such an event instead of minimizing the loss in an effective way.
Dr P Vyasamoorthy
040-27846631 / 09490804278