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Discarded Rags Cause Residential Fire

Firefighters from Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance and Los Angeles County help one another to extinguish the blaze.

Discarded stain-soaked rags used for a home improvement project caused a fire that could have caused damage to several residences on April 14.

Firefighters responding from Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach arrived at a single-story, single-family residence in 2600 block of Vista Drive to find heavy black smoke coming from its attached garage, reported Fire Marshal Lou Petroni.

Seconds later, the garage was fully engulfed with fire and threatened to spread to nearby homes, he said.

With the help of Los Angeles County and Torrance firefighters, requested through mutual aid agreements, firefighters put out the fire, which prevented fire damage to any residence, including the one where the fire broke out, Petroni said.

Manhattan Beach Fire investigators later determined that paint and staining supplies used on the home’s exterior wood siding and surrounding gates earlier that day had resulted in spontaneous combustion and the fire. At the completion of the work, the homeowner put the stain-soaked rags in a plastic container outside behind the garage.

“This is an unfortunate incident, but one that is more common than you think," said Petroni, of the Manhattan Beach Fire Department. "Some paint products may create heat through a chemical reaction, and, in many cases, the products are natural oils used in the drying process of stains. If these stain-soaked rags are wadded up and thrown in a trash can, a chemical reaction may create excessive heat and a fire can occur.” 

The Manhattan Beach Fire Department recommends following disposal instructions on the container of the chemical product. Most times, instructions specify that rags used for staining be placed in a metal can filled with water, he said. 

ML May 08, 2013 at 05:51 AM
On my goodness! I'm so glad that you included the bit about disposal instructions... that could have happened to anyone who is not familiar with these chemicals. thank you!

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