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Spontaneous chemical combustion: how to prevent the risk of fires

Posted at 10:23 PM, Mar 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-21 23:23:48-04

In the past month, there have been 11 fires in Acadiana. Candles, appliances, and electric outlets are usually to blame for these fires. However, springtime projects involving chemicals are causing spontaneous combustion fires.

If you are planning on staining your deck, or hardwood floors, you will more than likely be using a rag.
These rags will contain the chemical residue, and if not properly disposed of, can cause huge fires.

“The chemical reaction inside the oily rags, from stain, linseed oil, any sorts of that, the chemical inside the oil breaks down and creates external heating, if the rags are piled up, and it doesn’t allow the heat to evaporate, that’s where the fire starts,” Alton Trahan with the Lafayette Fire Department explains.

A fire on Karen Drive in Lafayette took place after a rag used to stain hardwood floors was left in a cardboard box.

Here’s how you should properly dispose of chemical covered rags:

  • ​Insert oily rag into metal container water containing water, seal tightly, dispose.
  • Lay oily rag outside on concrete, out of direct sunlight to dry out.
  • NEVER leave disposal cans or buckets with oily rags inside a building, including garages.

Trahan also suggests never leaving flaming chemicals near a heating source, such as a water heater.
Gas cans should be left outside or in a storage unit.

Trahan said, “As long as the heat can not accumulate, by being in a trash can, or box.. if the heat cannot be contained, there will not be a fire.”