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Truckee Meadows Fire reminds citizens how to handle oil soaked rags.
Media Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Charles A. Moore, Fire Chief

Reno, Nevada. Aug. 21, 2014. Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District has determined the cause of the residential structure fire on Wednesday, Aug. 20, on Dorothy Court in Sun Valley. The fire was accidental, caused by spontaneous combustion of oil soaked rags used for staining furniture.

A pile of rags was left on the outdoor, wood deck. The hot afternoon temperature, combined with the self-heating nature of the rags and an afternoon breeze created a chemical chain reaction that started the fire. The fire consumed the wood deck and portions of the home. The occupants of the home escaped without injury.

Spontaneous combustion occurs when the oil is drying on the rag. The drying process produces heat, and air gets trapped in the folds or balled up portions. Heat and oxygen are combined with the rag which is usually made of combustible cloth. Heat, oxygen and fuel are all that is needed to create a fire.

 “Oily rags are the summertime equivalent of fireplace ash in the winter,” said Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District Chief Charles Moore. “Both present fire risk and both can be neutralized with a metal can and tight fitting lid and a little water.”    

Rags that have absorbed oils such as linseed oil or turpentine should not only be kept in well-covered metal cans but also thoroughly soaked in water and mixed with an oil breakdown type of detergent, like laundry detergent.