Summer Safety

Spontaneous Fires

Re: clean towels causing fires

Recently a fire occurred from clean towels taken from the dryer, folded and stacked with other towels, also just out of the dryer.

So what occurred?  After washing the towels then placed in the dryer and stacked, placed in an area where the towels did not have a chance to thoroughly cool down caused what is known as spontaneous combustion.  So fire needs three items to continue to burn, Oxygen (air), Fuel (the towels), and Heat.  Without any of the three items needed to have a fire, the fire would not exist.

The towels in question are the fuel, and the air around us is almost always sufficient enough to allow burning, the heat is generated by the towels, in this case not having enough time to cool.  That warm feeling of the towels just out of the dryer is plenty hot enough to ignite the towels.  Another factor would be the confinement of the towels in a small area, so the hot towels would take longer to cool below the towels ignition temperature.

Recently and much more common would be towels or rags that may have been used in staining with an oil base material.  All three elements are present Oxygen, Heat and Fuel, eliminate and of the three and there is no chance of a fire occurring.

Any bleach added to the cleaning process could also leave a residue as dryer sheets did when they were first introduced to the market had an negative effect and enhanced the burning.  This type of a fire is so uncommon that it is important that we provide this important fire safety reminder.

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