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Cotton laundry auto-ignition

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1st fire door from the kitchen to the kitchen lobby. Door damaged by heat and smoke but prevented spread of fire beyond door.

1st fire door from the kitchen to the kitchen lobby. Door damaged by heat and smoke but prevented spread of fire beyond door.

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Kitchen lobby protected between 2 fire doors. Minor smoke damage in the lobby due to protection from 1st fire door.

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2nd fire door prevented spread of smoke to the remainder of the premises.

2nd fire door prevented spread of smoke to the remainder of the premises.

How this fire happened

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Fire Damage
Fire Damage

Restaurant routines include a thorough clean of the basement kitchen each Sunday. On the night of the fire, the kitchen had been cleaned, appliances unplugged and the laundry washed and dried.

Before leaving the premises for the night, the cotton laundry was folded and stacked straight from the tumble drier in to plastic baskets.

During the night the hot moist laundry in the stack and the oil residue started to self-heat (resulting from an exothermic reaction within the material) due to continued oxidation.

When the fabrics reached auto-ignition temperature, the materials ignited without the application of an external heat source, commonly described as ‘spontaneous combustion’.

The fire was discovered by the cleaner at 0600 hours, the time the fire started is unknown. However, the fire safety features in the basement meant that the fire was contained by two parallel fire doors which also limited smoke damage to the rest of the business.

The effect it had

"Our business had to be closed for full kitchen refit for 4 months. This has had a huge impact on our staff, business development, business profile and customer loyalty."

Safety message

Safety advice - Do
  • Ensure wash temperatures and detergents are suitable for the optimum removal of oil based contaminants
  • Allow laundry to complete the cooling cycle in the tumble dryer
  • Shake out laundry to ventilate before folding or place garments on hangers
  • Ensure stack or pile is well ventilated
  • Test your smoke alarm regularly
Safety Message Don't
  • Remove laundry from the tumble dryer before completing the cooling cycle
  • Place warm, damp laundry in polythene bags or plastic containers/baskets or in poorly ventilated areas
  • Leave freshly laundered fabrics stacked overnight. 

Further information

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Latest Update :
02 February 2015
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