Deadly House Fire Caused By Spontaneous Combustion

By Shawn Chitnis

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Investigators said Thursday spontaneous combustion from oil-soaked rags was the source of a deadly house fire on Oct. 8.

It killed a woman trying to escape from a bedroom of the two-story home.

fatal house fire 5vo transfer frame 57 Deadly House Fire Caused By Spontaneous Combustion

(credit: Poudre Fire Authority)

“We believe that all fires are preventable,” said Madeline Noblett of the Poudre Fire Authority, “There are ways that you can prepare yourself to be fire safe, in this case it’s the proper storage and disposal of rags.”

Firefighters responded to an early morning call at 4512 Idledale Drive.

Crews found Rachael Max inside the house. She was the daughter of Doug Max, the associate athletic director for Colorado State University.

Investigators found rags used by a contractor under the deck of the house. The rags were used as a part of a job to stain that deck.

fatal house fire 5vo transfer frame 121 Deadly House Fire Caused By Spontaneous Combustion

(credit: Poudre Fire Authority)

Noblett explained that the combination of the chemicals used and the material of the rags can start a fire at any moment.

While it may take several hours before a rag can ignite, homeowners should consider it a potential hazard at all times.

There are 1,600 fires like this one each year across the country caused by a spontaneous combustion or a chemical reaction, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

photo oct 08 05 45 47 Deadly House Fire Caused By Spontaneous Combustion

(credit: Poudre Fire Authority)

To properly dispose of any of these flammable materials, take a rag or paint brush used with oil-based chemicals and place the item inside a metal container.

Make sure to fully submerge it in water and then place a metal lid on top of the container.

Use this method to store the items if you’re not finished with your project or for proper disposal at the appropriate facility.

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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