Business Alert - Central County Fire & Rescue

Business Alert

smoldering fire

Two spontaneous combustion fires hit local businesses.

Spontaneous combustion fires may sound like something out of a science fiction movie; unfortunately it is a dangerous situation that has hit two local businesses in the past year. In both of the incidents, freshly laundered towels placed on a counter caused a chemical reaction to occur, and a fire ensued.

When towels or other linens soiled with cooking oil or cleaning chemicals are washed in a normal washer and dryer they are not truly clean; residue remains on the linens. The heat of the dryer can start and accelerate the spontaneous heating process of the oil residue left in the towels. When they are piled together the heat has no way to escape and the natural material continues to heat up until a fire occurs. A similar reaction can occur if a washer or dryer used to launder soiled linens is not cleaned and well maintained.

We highly recommend that you send your laundry out to a commercial laundry service that has the proper equipment to handle these volatile oils and cleaning chemicals.

Tips to Avoid Spontaneous Combustion

  • Use a commercial laundry service.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on all cleaning supplies and equipment.
  • Do not leave items soiled by oil or other flammable items in a pile, even if they are freshly laundered.
  • Make sure that the washer and dryer are clean and well maintained.
  • If rags have been used for painting, wood-finishing or oil-based projects, hang them outside to dry, or place them in an airtight metal container that is placed away from the building, and do not launder them.

If you have any questions about how to keep your business safe, or if you would like CCFR firefighters to provide complimentary employee training on fire extinguisher usage, or other safety topics please do not hesitate to call us at 636.970.9700 or send us an email. With your help we can keep our community safe.