AFD warns of oil-soaked rags igniting fires due to spontaneous combustion in high temperatures.

AUSTIN, Texas – The Austin Fire Department has recently witnessed a disquieting trend in which household items are spontaneously combusting, leading to dangerous fires. According to Pete Constantine, a battalion chief with the Austin Fire Department, the substantial increase in temperatures experienced over the past 30 to 40 days, coupled with the extremely low humidity, creates the perfect conditions for these unexpected fires.

The main culprit behind these incidents appears to be rags soaked in oil or other highly flammable liquids. While the Fire Department typically handles only one or two cases of spontaneous combustion per year, they have already responded to four such incidents in August alone. As Constantine explains, when these products heat up, they release fumes that reach the ignition temperature due to the scorching weather conditions prevalent outside.

Motor oils, cooking oils, stain removers, and even transmission fluid are among the oils identified as exacerbating the fire risk. “As oil-laden rags heat up, they generate heat. With the oxygen present in the air, the necessary components for a fire are all in place,” Constantine warns. However, the danger multiplies when these rags are not properly stored.

Constantine recounts instances where people have recklessly discarded these rags in their trash or left them adjacent to piles of leaves or near their houses. To counter this peril, the Austin Fire Department advises individuals to place oil-soaked rags inside airtight containers, ensuring no other flammable materials such as leaves, paper, or other chemicals are present. “By depriving these materials of contact with air, we diminish the chances of ignition. A metal trash can with a tightly sealed lid would be sufficient,” Constantine emphasizes.

When in doubt, Constantine advises individuals to refer to the instructions provided on the can of oil for proper handling. Most oil containers contain these instructions, acting as valuable resources to prevent mishaps. “Considering the scorching weather and the arid conditions, it is crucial that we all take a step back and ensure we are adhering to safety protocols,” adds Constantine.

Additionally, the Austin Fire Department underscores the importance of taking other fire precautions. These include refraining from discarding cigarettes out of car windows or into grassy areas, ensuring that loose chains do not drag on the ground while driving, and keeping a fire extinguisher or a source of water nearby when working with fire.

With the surge in incidents involving spontaneous combustion, the Austin Fire Department urges the community to exercise caution and vigilance in order to mitigate the risks associated with these fires. By adhering to safety guidelines and adopting responsible practices, individuals can help prevent potentially catastrophic accidents.

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