Oily rags spontaneously ignite causing yesterday’s house fire

Michele Anderson, Public Safety Communications Manager

Friday, February 22, 2019 at 1:36 p.m.

Investigators with the Spokane Fire Department’s Special Investigation Unit advise yesterday’s E. Marshall Ave. house fire was caused by improperly disposed oil/stain rags that spontaneously ignited.

Just after 5:30 p.m., fire crews from the Spokane Fire Department responded to the 1900 block of E. Marshall Ave. following the report of smoke coming from inside a vacant house being renovated. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the fire and contain it to the kitchen area. There were no reported injuries to civilians or firefighters.

One of the most common type of spontaneous combustion fires are those caused by improperly disposed of oil and stain soaked rags. Examples can include oil-based paints and stains, varnishes and polyurethane, paint thinners, etc. Spontaneous combustion of oily rags occurs when rag or cloth is slowly heated to its ignition point through oxidation. A substance will begin to release heat as it oxidizes. If this heat has no way to escape, like in a pile, the temperature will raise to a level high enough to ignite the oil and ignite the rag or cloth. The fire from this can spread quickly to other combustibles and cause significant damage to a residence or property.