Rags Spontaneously Combust, Cause $10,000 Damage

Sunday, May 23, 2010 - 6:30am

Rags spontaneously combusted and started a fire at 2906 Harriman Lane on Sunday morning.

Firefighters arrived and noticed flames along the garage area. There are several bedrooms above the garage. Firefighters were able to confine the fire to the exterior of home. The fire caused approximately $15,000 damage to the vinyl siding and outside vegetation.

No one was home at the time. The owners, who are getting ready to move into the home, decided to stain some floors. The rags used for staining spontaneously combusted and started the fire after the rags were placed in a plastic city trash container, with the lid left open. Sawdust, paper towels and other combustibles helped fuel the fire.

A Wisconsin State Journal newspaper carrier noticed the fire, knocked on the front door of the home, but no one answered. The carrier then reported the fire to 911.

No one was injured.

The City of Madison Fire Department advises the following to avoid spontaneous combustion of rags:

•When staining or varnishing wood, always place the rags outside of the structure to dry or place them in a bucket of water or a metal container with an airtight metal lid.
•Never leave the rags bunched together; spread them out so they can't build up heat as the oil oxidizes.
•Do not place the rags near or inside the structure.
•Wash your oily rags by hand, and air dry on a clothesline.


  • Bernadette Galvez608-261-9844