LOMBARD, Ill. (CBS) — Spontaneous human combustion is a myth, but spontaneous combustion of other objects really can happen – and the phenomenon is being blamed for a fire that ripped through a Lombard garage over the weekend.
The Lombard Fire Department received a call at 9:39 p.m. about a garage fire in the 500 block of South Craig Place, according to a release from the department.
Lombard fire Battalion Chief Ron Rakosnik said the “spontaneous combustion” of rags and towels used to strip wooden doors was the cause of the fire.
Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the flames, the release said.
“When involved in do-it-yourself projects at home, please read how to properly dispose of items that come in contact with any chemicals used,” Rakosnik said in a news release. “Wood stains that are oil based can spontaneously catch fire in the proper conditions.”
The Fire Department estimated damage to the garage and contents at $12,000.
The Straight Dope points out that leaving oil-soaked rags in a confined place can cause the oil on them to oxidize – a chemical process that generates heat. The heat is unable to dissipate and eventually builds up to the point of “autoignition” temperature, and bursts into flame without any outside ignition source, the Straight Dope explained in a 1997 column.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.