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Hot!PC set on fire - what's the cause?

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poiski
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2022/03/15 09:11:36 (permalink)
Good afternoon all,
I need some help...
 
Yesterday while at home working my home PC set alight. Luckily I was home when it quite literally went up in flames. I managed to grab and throw the burning PC and throw it out into my back yard.
Apart from second degree burns to my finger tips which has now been treated quite painfully at my local hospital, I'm healthy and my house survived with only superficial damage.
 
Now onto the PC... I've built added minor upgrades to what is now burnt to a crisp and unusable so nothing to do now but try and work out the cause... I keep the PC well maintained, cleaning it out with compressed air once a month and applying thermal paste once every 6 months. The area the PC was in was well venilated on laminate flooring with a good gap to the sides, below and above. I added 2 extra case fans for circulation and never had issues with temps. I also hadn't overclocked any parts and typically used it for brief gaming sessions in the evening and browsing the net.
It's a modest setup, but for myself on a relatively low income it was a lot for me and I'm devastated it's all gone. I've included notes on the setup, you'll note the PSU is what I believe to be a reputable brand and good rating? My question is... how has it gone from running perfectly fine on a surge protected extension cable to on fire in less than 5 minutes? This obviously isn't normal... so what could have been the cause?
 
The PSU is under warranty and noted a posted  from another person a few years ago with an issue similar... however my modular cables aren't burnt in the same way his were.... was it the PSU? Graphics card? A capacitor from the motherboard maybe? I'm shooting in the dark. I'm not covered by contents insurance and if I were the outlay on my premium wouldn't make it worth the cover, however I would like to know what I can do if anything? Prior to this I only had an issue booting due to my mono giving up the ghost after 3 months of not being used.
 
What is there I can do if anything for compensation as this isn't user error and from what I understand I've taken all precautionary measures needed.
 
I'm relieved I'm alive and blessed to have been awake to deal with this. Had it not have been for my smoke alarms it would have been 10x worse.
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Pro
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2600 w/ stock fan
GPU: XFX Radeon RX 580 GTS XXX Edition
PSU: EVGA Supernova 650 P2 80+ Platinum
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x 8GB)
MOBO: Aorus B450 Micro ATX (Recently replaced my AS Rock B450 Pro4 which I had to remove due to boot issues which remain a mystery)
 
I've been lifted and disconnecting cables to see if there was anything I could see on the connections themselves to see what's caused it, they were better hidden before it set alight. The soldered on *gloop* you'll see on the GFX card and CPU mainly is from the tempered glass on the case itself melting off.

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    EVGATech_DavidR
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 09:43:53 (permalink)
    Hello,
     
    I am very sorry to hear about this. It's impossible to say the cause simply from the description and photos, I will be reaching out to you directly, to see if there's any assistance we may be able to offer.
     
    Regards,
    EVGA
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    poiski
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 10:02:21 (permalink)
    Thanks David, will look out for it.
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    Michapolys
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 10:11:57 (permalink)
    From what it seems on the pictures you posted, you did not push the PCI-E cable connector on the PSU side all the way in, thus triggering an over-current condition, which resulted in a thermal runaway scenario that resulted in fire.
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    poiski
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 10:15:30 (permalink)
    I can see what you are referring to, but have been fiddling with it outside trying to find cause myself. Wouldn't have been like that in the case, I'm quite cautious with thing like that in general.
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    yaymz
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 10:33:34 (permalink)
    Sorry to hear this happened, glad you are okay and can definitely understand your grief.
     
    As David mentions, going to be tough to pin-point based off available info.
     
    I can tell you most (pretty much all) modern PSUs have Overcurrent and overload Protection built in (your PSU does).  That said, if you ever used cables that weren't supplied by the PSU, that could certainly cause fire related issues.
     
    I would take a good look inside the case to see if you can identify any dark burn marks where the fire could have originated. 
     
    Mobo:  
    Specifically around the mobo and it's capacitors.   You also say that you recently replaced the mobo, so if by mistake 3v and 5v wires were crossed, that could cause an issue as well, so check all connection points to see if you can identify a fire starting point.
     
    GPU: I don't think it is this, but the photos sort look like the fire could have originated here.
     
     
     
     
     
    #6
    Michapolys
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 10:51:24 (permalink)
    poiski
    I can see what you are referring to, but have been fiddling with it outside trying to find cause myself. Wouldn't have been like that in the case, I'm quite cautious with thing like that in general.


    It is what it seems from the pictures. That is all.
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    poiski
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 11:02:14 (permalink)
    I've brought in in to take apart. The PSU to GFX wire is the most damaged along with the cable that supplies power to the SSD's and HDD. The actual SSD's have nothing left of them and are totally scorched. I've attached a few more pictures...
    Is it likely or even be possible to be a defective SSD? I bought one a few months ago and it's just ashes inside the case now.
    You can also see in one of the pictures where the SSD's were sitting in the bays is absolutely torched, paints all gone and isn't like that elsewhere.
    These all live on the backside of the case with the fan controller which is dust also.
    All the cables from the PSU were stock and came with the PSU itself.
     
    post edited by poiski - 2022/03/15 11:06:22
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    poiski
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 11:12:20 (permalink)


    #9
    Michapolys
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 11:13:05 (permalink)
    From the new pictures it seems that the fire originated from the front-middle side of the case. Whatever you had connected there is most likely where the fire started.

    Edit: I am referring to these two pictures:



    and

    post edited by Michapolys - 2022/03/15 11:21:36
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    austin86
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 11:45:35 (permalink)
    Michapolys
    From what it seems on the pictures you posted, you did not push the PCI-E cable connector on the PSU side all the way in, thus triggering an over-current condition, which resulted in a thermal runaway scenario that resulted in fire.

    I was more or less going to say this. PSU cables ether had a short/runaway that the PSU did not stop or had a runaway from a bad cable or cable that was not plugged in all the way. Both something any good modem PSU should be able to detect and shut off when it happens. Swapping volts on cables very rarely if ever leads to a fire in a PC as the PC will fail and stop working before a long before fire happens.
    post edited by austin86 - 2022/03/15 11:50:41


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    the_Scarlet_one
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 11:53:53 (permalink)
    If you have homeowners insurance or renters insurance, contact them and see what they may be able to help with.

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    austin86
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 12:08:01 (permalink)
    the_Scarlet_one
    If you have homeowners insurance or renters insurance, contact them and see what they may be able to help with.

    This is very sound advice.


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    Sajin
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 12:36:46 (permalink)
    Ouch. Sorry to hear about your pc. 

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    B0baganoosh
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 12:44:45 (permalink)
    As someone who used to do safety testing on power supplies and electronics (I still do as part of my current engineering job, but my previous job was just electrical safety testing for a Nationally Recognized Test Lab (NRTL) much like TUV Rheinland, the company who certified that power supply there...I didn't work for them, but one of their competitors), I'll walk you through some observations that I see. I can't definitively say what caused your fire, but some things are apparent to me. I'm sorry this goes back and forth a little, but I'm trying to explain why you might look at one thing, then rule it out or push further in that direction.
     
    It looks like most of the fire was from the cables going from the PSU to...a variety of things, but it seems that once wire insulation started going, it continued (which is odd...due to wire insulation non-flammability specs). I'm betting the plastic sleeving is what did the most burning as the actual wire insulation is supposed to be rated against that sort of thing. For reference, V-0 rated insulation you can actually hold a BIC lighter to and it even if it looks like it's melting or starting to burn, as soon as the flame is removed the fire goes out and the insulation doesn't continue to burn. In the lab it's done with a Bunsen burner and a very specific type of flame, but I just wanted to use an example everyone can understand.
     
    The main area where connectors look damaged is on the motherboard near where your 24-pin connector goes. It looks like that bundle of wires was where most of the heat was, but it's hard to tell what is culprit and what was just in the line of fire.

    Knowing that you changed the motherboard recently, I would wonder if something was pinched under the motherboard and over time, poked through the insulation on a wire and eventually caused a short (hence the delay between set up and fire). If there was a slight-short (not a "dead" short), you could have had a situation where a considerably higher current than the wires were rated for was drawn, but not enough to trip the supply. Your power supply can output 54.1A on the +12V line, and 20A each on the +3.3VDC and +5VDC lines. If you were putting 18A through one single wire for example, it might not have tripped, but that's a pretty high amount of current for one single wire. If that wire then heats up to the point of melting the insulation off, it could ignite other more flammable things around it, then the fire can spread. However, if this were the case, I would think this should be limited to one wire, couldn't be enough current to trip the over-current protection, and the fire shouldn't spread to other wires from the power supply because of the insulation being rated adequately. It should just be one wire in that case. Also, the supply should absolutely detect a dead-short, like if +12VDC shorted to the frame of the case. I've seen people do that before and you just hear a click from the supply, it won't even turn on. There's no perfect way to protect from currents less than the rail's maximum, otherwise the power supply wouldn't be able to run as much power as it does, but all that said, you've got a lot more than one single wire burnt here. Because what you'd usually see in this situation is one wire will burn and "fuse" open, basically removing itself from the circuit (not the whole PC going up), I don't buy that as the culprit.
     
    It seems quite odd to me to see this much wire insulation damage unless something else was burning and continuously heating the wires, especially after you removed the power from the situation. You've got a whole lot of wires with burned away (or likely melted away) insulation. If the insulation was rated according to what the regulatory marks on the side of the supply say they should have been (and also built to specification), that shouldn't happen from just a fire spreading on the wires. You have multiple wires that no longer have insulation. This means there was a great deal of heat/fire in that location for a prolonged period.
     
    Here's another odd thing: the wires look mostly fine down by the power supply. For example, if you had one wire heating up due to over-current, it would heat up through the entire length of the wire. It's not just going to heat up on one end. I would open/fuse at the weakest point, so you would likely see one end a bit worse than the other, or one spot that melted more, but your wires, sleeving, and heat-shrink down on the PSU end have no major signs of heat. So it doesn't look like the "heated wire(s) starts a fire" situation.
     
    So I'm left with a couple non-independent theories (if anybody has followed my ramblings to this point).
    1. a device in your computer had some sort of hard failure, resulting in actual fire, not just short-circuit-heat in the wires (GPU, hard drive, or motherboard component), and drew less than what would have been needed to trip the over-current protection of your supply in the process.
    2. This fire then spread on the all the mesh sleaving and plastic bits in the cable bundles, particularly above the point of fire. While the insulation is usually supposed to be non-flammable, the sleeving, zip ties, heat-shrink, etc. is not always rated accordingly and if that is what was actually on fire, it could have still melted the "non-flammable" insulation. I think this because of how localized on the wires the burning was.
    3. The melted/burned insulation, burn marks everywhere, and heat pattern seem to start right between the right-most end of your GPU and the connector-side of the SSD in the picture. The wires below that look fine. Heat goes up. My guess from all this would be that fire was literally come out of the back of one of those things and burned everything above it. I'd have some questions about why it happened?, how much current was involved?, did the PSU just keep feeding it even if it was over current limits (i.e. did the OCP work correctly)? etc. but from the pictures and my experience with burning/melting insulation off wires from a variety of fire and over-current, this would be my guess.
     
    Edit: Oh dear. Thanks to a fantastic observation from Tyger (below this), I now realize that the SATA data cables seem like some of the worst damaged wires, end-to-end. I'm currently scratching my head to think about what could have caused all of them to do that (motherboard putting shorting 12V to the data lines somehow?...really not sure), but if the motherboard shorted, the cables would be fine...if there was a short in the SSD, it could maybe draw the kind of current needed to burn the wire, but not trip the PSU...maybe...I can't believe I completely missed how bad those data cables were. I was thinking of CPU power cables that plug in below the 24-pin on some super high end boards (like the newer DARK boards, not this board) and missed that those were data cables burned that bad end to end.
    post edited by B0baganoosh - 2022/03/15 13:00:50

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    ty_ger07
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 12:45:50 (permalink)
    The SATA power cables look most suspicious to me. The lowest burnt wire is a SATA wire, and you have more burnt SATA wires behind the motherboard tray. How could so much heat get back there unless related? You said one of the SSDs was nothing but ashes? That's where I think the fault started.
    post edited by ty_ger07 - 2022/03/15 12:49:17
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    B0baganoosh
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 12:56:46 (permalink)
    ty_ger07
    The SATA power cables look most suspicious to me. The lowest burnt wire is a SATA wire, and you have more burnt SATA wires behind the motherboard tray. How could so much heat get back there unless related? You said one of the SSDs was nothing but ashes? That's where I think the fault started.



    Interesting! I had missed that one of the worst cables (two actually), seem like they used to be SATA cables...not the power cables, but the data cables. I have no idea if those are supposed to be rated like the power supply cable wires I was referring to above. And unlike the power supply cables, the SATA cable from that SSD to the motherboard is cooked from one end all the way to the other. That does look like an over-current melting off all the insulation. I wonder if the SSD shorted +12V to the data lines. That could theoretically cause enough heat in those cables to burn the insulation off and also not trip the PSU's OCP. Those are tiny wires. Very interesting indeed. i'm not sure why that would then burn the rest of the SATA cables, because it looks like the rest of them are cooked too, but maybe those aren't as non-flammable and just all went up in flames once things kicked off.

    This is exactly why I said in my book above that I couldn't definitively say what happened lol.

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    CraptacularOne
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 12:59:25 (permalink)
    I doubt very much it originated from the power supply. I rotated your image to give a better perspective.

     
    If it originated at your PSU one would think the cables down there would be more charred but they look fine more or less coming from the PSU itself. I'd suspect the components in the PSU itself are also relatively intact as well though we can't see them with the pics provided. What seems to have happened is something on your motherboard shorted and caused this. It usually happens near the VRM area of the motherboard though again we can't see with the pics provided. However the charring is much worse in the upper half of the case indicating to me that the fire originated in the top half of the case and then cascaded down as things began to burn and melt. 
     
    Really an unfortunate event. Sorry to see it. 

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    Michapolys
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 13:04:25 (permalink)
    So we more or less agree that the ssds/hdds caught fire, and the air flow from the fans moved the flames towards the rest devices and cables in the way.
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    B0baganoosh
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 13:07:58 (permalink)
    Michapolys
    So we more or less agree that the ssds/hdds caught fire, and the air flow from the fans moved the flames towards the rest devices and cables in the way.


    It does look that way...but I don't know if you can say for sure that they are the reason they caught fire. The motherboard could have had some malfunctions and put some voltages where they didn't belong. I had a Dell do that to me before many years ago, but luckily I was using it at the time and shut it off before anything so catastrophic happened. Edit: just to clarify: all components were borked in that Dell...but they didn't catch fire.
    post edited by B0baganoosh - 2022/03/15 13:09:34

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    CraptacularOne
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 13:08:49 (permalink)
    Michapolys
    So we more or less agree that the ssds/hdds caught fire, and the air flow from the fans moved the flames towards the rest devices and cables in the way.

    I think all that we agree on at this point is that the charring and burn marks are far more apparent in the upper/mid half of the case indicating a failure in that region. I'm not so sure it was the SSD/HDDs as much as it was maybe a capacitor on the motherboard giving up and taking the rest of the system with it. 

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    rzelek506
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/15 19:09:43 (permalink)
    Sorry to see this happen to you, OP.
     
    Regarding the SSD:
    Are you able to remove the PCB from the SSD's frame/case?
    If there was a specific electrical fault with the drive (such as a 12V rail accidently getting shorted to one of the other signals), I would expect specific damage of the PCB at one of its ICs or at a specific location within the SSDs PCB. 
    It may be possible that the SSD's frame protected it's internal PCB from getting totally scorched like the rest of your system did.
    In such a case, there may be some clues on the SSD's PCB that may indicate what happened to it exactly, which could help towards understanding how this fire started.
    post edited by rzelek506 - 2022/03/15 19:11:17
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    EVGATech_MarkusK
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/16 08:28:00 (permalink)
    Hi Poiski,
     
    our EU Customer Service Team contacted you directly per email and requested some further information - email is coming fom supporteu@evga.com 
     
    Thx,
     
    Markus
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    austin86
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/16 09:11:50 (permalink)
    ty_ger07
    The SATA power cables look most suspicious to me. The lowest burnt wire is a SATA wire, and you have more burnt SATA wires behind the motherboard tray. How could so much heat get back there unless related? You said one of the SSDs was nothing but ashes? That's where I think the fault started.

    The way the sata power cable is plugged into the SSD looks rather fishy too. I know the pins in sata cables can bent and short when plugged in at a angle like that.
    post edited by austin86 - 2022/03/16 10:44:17


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    B0baganoosh
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/16 10:14:40 (permalink)
    austin86
    ty_ger07
    The SATA power cables look most suspicious to me. The lowest burnt wire is a SATA wire, and you have more burnt SATA wires behind the motherboard tray. How could so much heat get back there unless related? You said one of the SSDs was nothing but ashes? That's where I think the fault started.

    They= way the sata power cable is plugged into the SSD looks rather fishy too. I know the pins in sata cables can bent and short when plugged in at a angle like that.




    From the soot marks, it looks like that connector was moved after the fire. The part sticking out farther looks cleaner...like it was properly inserted at the time of the fire.

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    #25
    austin86
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/16 10:45:22 (permalink)
    B0baganoosh
    From the soot marks, it looks like that connector was moved after the fire. The part sticking out farther looks cleaner...like it was properly inserted at the time of the fire.

    good eye, I did not notice that. But I am willing to bet the cable sleeving fulled a good bit of the fire. like you said the inhalation on the cables should not burn, melt yes but never burn.
     
    The fan hub on the back side of the case also looks a little fishy, if the back side of the case arced with the hub  could have set the sleeving on the mess of cables but there on fire. Some of the pins on the hub are bent outward. But if that was the case Id think there would be more damage to the hub. I also see a cable that looks to be shoved between the motherboard and its tray, but my eyes could be paying tricks on me. If that is true a pin on the back side of the motherboard could have cut into it and shorted.
    post edited by austin86 - 2022/03/16 10:54:23


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    wmmills
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    Re: PC set on fire - what's the cause? 2022/03/17 07:17:22 (permalink)
    That thing is burnt to a crisp from waaayyy deep inside. Last time we saw something this burnt it was in a house fire, so this thing must have been cooking for quite awhile to look like that. What the PSU wouldnt shut down with protections the mobo would have surely done, so it has to be something that was sizzling inside like a RGB/Fan controller, GPU riser, cable pinch, bad mod, etc.... Many RGB/fan boxes use the SATA cable lines to power them and they are very minimally built. The one im using for example is great for just running the RGB lines but i wouldnt trust it to run the fans and the RGB lines all at once,like its setup for, def see a fire like this happening. Really, without us being there, and you already picking at it and messing with things and moving them, its almost impossible for us to figure out what happened here. Im sorry this happened to ya brotha and thank goodness all are safe at least. Sometimes, you got to look at things like a glass half full and take the good from it.

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