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Spontaneous Combustion Likely Behind Forest Service Building Fire


Investigators looking into a fire that destroyed a U.S. Forest Service building in Enterprise last month, say they’ve found the likely cause…spontaneous combustion.  No, really.  David Nogueras explains.


It might be strange to think that an object can just catch fire without being exposed to a spark or a flame, but according to the deputy state fire marshal it can…and does happen.  

Often the culprit might seem as innocuous as a balled up oily rag. 

But some of products used in staining and finishing jobs will undergo a process called oxidation as they dry. Oxidation gives off heat. And if that heat is allowed accumulate, say in a balled up rag, it could get hot enough to catch fire.

In the case of the Forest Service building in Enterprise, workers on the day of the fire had been applying a sealant to the exterior of the building.

The Deputy State Fire Marshall recommends disposing of oily rags by placing them in a clean paint can filled 2 thirds of the way to the top with water.  

Be sure to check with your garbage disposal company for their policy on disposal of the can and the contents.

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