Langford Fire Rescue is reminding West Shore residents to be extra careful when disposing of oily rags or other materials soaked in combustible substances.
The department was recently called to a fire that started in the back of a pickup truck at roughly 3 a.m. By the time crews arrived on scene the truck was fully engulfed, said Assistant Chief Chris Aubrey. The owner had been doing work on a fence and bits of cedar, oily rags and cans of stain were left in the bed of the pickup. That combination is believed to be what started the fire.
“It just got bigger and bigger. Eventually it broke the back window,” Aubrey said, adding “neighbours were alerted by the sound of the horn going off.”
As rags soaked in substances such as wood stain dry, they create heat and can ignite. This process can be accelerated by sunshine, but generally combustion occurs after a few hours, Aubrey noted, and is often not something residents think of when they finish working on a project.
Oily rags were also believed to be the cause of a house fire last summer. Aubrey noted he’s even attended a fire where the rags smouldered and caught fire in the laundry basket at a commercial kitchen after staff had finished cleaning for the night.
“Never put them in the dryer,” he said, even if rags have gone through a washing machine.
Aubrey noted the best way of disposing of soiled rags is to place them in a sealed metal container. That way if a fire does occur it will burn up the oxygen in the container and put itself out. He noted some residents even fill the container with water as a preventative measure.