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Spontaneous combustion of soiled rags concerning for Saskatoon Fire Department

Some recent structure fires in Saskatoon, including one involving several homes in Montgomery Place, have been caused by the spontaneous combustion of soiled rags. Phillip Bollman / Global News

The spontaneous combustion of soiled rags is a concern for the Saskatoon Fire Department.

Some recent structure fires in the city have been caused by the soiled rags that had not been sufficiently cleaned or properly stored.

A family in Montgomery Place was left homeless in July after fire ripped through several structures.

READ MORE: Family of five left homeless after fire in Saskatoon’s Montgomery neighbourhood

It was determined soiled rags used for staining self-heated and spontaneously combusted after being placed in an open container in an attached garage.

The most recent incident happened on Sept. 17 when a garage on Avenue Q North caught fire.

Fire officials said rags, towels, and other applicators soiled with combustible products, such as oil-based paints, stains, and finishing products, are a serious concern as they release heat while drying.

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If the heat is trapped and has access to oxygen, it will build up, creating an ideal environment for a fire to start.

Here are tips to follow for the cleaning, storing or disposal of soiled applicators:

  • allow adequate drying time by hanging soiled rags in an open-air environment and away from combustible materials;
  • never bundle soiled rags together or leave them in a pile – this can create a chemical reaction allowing them to self-heat and spontaneously combust;
  • place dry soiled rags in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid to limit the amount of oxygen;
  • keep metal containers in a cool place and out of direct sunlight;
  • never store soiled rags or the containers near a heat source; and
  • dispose of soiled rags at a hazardous waste drop-off day.

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