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Quincy Scanner Tales: Spontaneous combustion leads to house fire

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 18, 2013 01:43 PM

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A Quincy man and his wife have been displaced by a house fire apparently caused by spontaneous combustion, fire officials said.

According to Quincy Deputy Fire Chief Jeffrey Starr, the fire began in the cellar of 144 Fayette Street at 8:33 a.m. on Sunday, sparking in some rags that had a flammable paint or stain substance on them.

“You have to have the perfect condition,” Starr said. “It’s usually rags involved with a thinner, though the paints now are mostly water based. But just if it heats up and right amount of oxygen and it generates heat on its own it can happen.”

The fire traveled up to the first floor through one of the walls.

The owner, an elderly man in his 80s, was awoken by the smoke and went downstairs, Starr said. When he saw the smoke, he got out of the building and a neighbor phoned emergency crews.

Starr said it took fire crews approximately half an hour to put out the fire in the single-family home, which caused approximately $50,000 in damage.

Extensive smoke, water, and fire damage made the home uninhabitable, Starr said. The owner lives at the property with his wife, who was in Ireland at the time of the blaze. Their adult children do not live in the home, Starr said.

Starr said it is rare to have spontaneous combustion in a home, but that it does occur. He recommended putting rags soaked in a flammable liquid inside a metal sealed can, or leaving them outside the home to dry.

“If they just had the solvent on them and it dried up, it’s not a problem. It’s when they are rolled in a ball and confined and it generates enough heat to self-ignite,” Starr said.

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