Oil on towels likely cause of fire
By Paul Taylor
Massage oil residue on towels is the likely cause of a laundry room fire that resulted in the evacuation of two Queenstown bars and an apartment block.
The Queenstown Volunteer Fire Brigade responded to an alarm activation at 1 Athol St, next to the Village Green, at 10.30pm on Saturday.
Firefighters wearing breathing kit found a smoke-filled room on the second floor of the building above Brazz Steakhouse & Bar.
They quickly extinguished a blaze involving a clothes dryer and heat pump in the laundry room of the Nadi Wellness Centre.
No-one was injured.
Business owner Sandi Murphy said it was ''such a shock to receive the call late at night and I'm just really grateful no-one was hurt and nothing happened beyond the small area''.
The yoga studio and wellness centre had a sophisticated fire alarm system, Ms Murphy said.
''The brigade was alerted and the situation was very quickly contained.''
From an initial fire investigation assessment, it appeared oil residue on towels and sheets might be the cause.
''It came from the drum,'' Ms Murphy said.
''What we've had as an assessment is sometimes when there's residue oil from towels and sheets, because we have a massage business, it can overheat and combust.
''It's apparently not uncommon to have this happen in restaurants as well. It's something people could be more aware of across the board.''
Ms Murphy, who had been unaware this could happen, said all necessary precautions would be put in place to ensure no repeat.
Stanley St was temporarily closed and Brazz, The Speight's Ale House and the apartment block were evacuated for about an hour.
The large building, owned by former Queenstown mayor and cabinet minister Warren Cooper, contains several businesses and apartments.
Shift manager for Southern Fire Communications Brent Dunn said extra resources from Frankton, Arrowtown and Alexandra were called in.
The surrounding rooms and walls were checked.
Central-North Otago Fire Risk Management Officer Stuart Ide said he attended the scene yesterday morning.
''It was pretty much confined to the dryer and heat pump,'' Mr Ide said.
''I'm just waiting for some more information tomorrow or the next day before concluding the investigation.''
Ms Murphy said the wellness centre was closed yesterday but could reopen today. Yoga students can check its Facebook page
Every day forty-two families on average in the United States experience a laundry room fire. Some are small. Some are devastating. All of them place our loved ones in grave danger.
While cooking remains the leading cause of house fires, laundry room fires account for an average of 15,000 fires each year in the United States according to the National Fire Protection Association.
This number may not seem very high until you consider that laundry room fires account for an average 16 civilian deaths, 433 civilian injuries and $201 million in structural damage every year in one- and two-family homes.
This doesn't not include figures from commercial laundries, dry cleaners or multi-housing units.
How can the laundry room be such a potential fire hazard? The combination of electricity, heat, water and combustible materials can lead to disaster if not handled correctly.
What Causes A Laundry Room Fire to Ignite?
Clothing in left in a dryer - 30 percent
Appliance cords or cables insulation - 29 percent
Dust, fiber or lint - 27 percent
Appliance housing - 21 percent
Appliance drive or belt - 18 percent
Soft goods left in laundry room - 10 percent
Clothes dryers are involved in 92 percent of all laundry room fires with the leading cause of the fires being a failure to clean the appliances. The risk of fire is slightly higher for gas-fueled dryers than for electric clothes dryers due to the pilot ignition light.
Cotton and other natural fiber clothes and linens that are often stained with cooking oils can actually self-ignite if dried on high heat and stored while still warm.
To prevent this from happening, wash oily stained items appropriately using a heavy-duty detergent and hot water to remove the oily stains. Never leave extremely hot dried laundry to stack up in a laundry basket without air circulation.
Folded laundry should be completely cooled before packing it away in a space that is not well ventilated.
Laundry Room Fire Prevention Tips
- Clean washer and dryer lint filters after every use. If you use dryer sheets or a dryer bar, the residue can accumulate on your dryer lint screen. Monthly remove the screen and clean it with hot, soapy water. Allow to dry completely before returning to the dryer.
- Dispose of the lint properly. Do not leave an accumulation of lint stored in the laundry room or store any combustible liquids nearby.
- Immediately replace the flexible plastic accordion-style dryer vent hose. Whether white plastic or shiny foil material, it is a lint trap just waiting for an accidental fire.
- Install the proper rigid metal or rigid plastic dryer hose vent and outdoor vent and clean them regularly.
- Be sure that the washer and dryer are plugged into grounded and appropriate wattage electric outlets. Almost all dryers require a 240v outlet.
- Never use an extension cord to run a washer or dryer and don't overload outlets.
- Every gas-powered dryer must be installed by a certified technician.
- Do not place clothes or towels that have been soaked with cleaning solvents, paint, pesticides or gasoline or fuel oil in the dryer. Even after washing, it is safer to air dry these items.
- Do not leave a dryer running if you leave home or go to bed. If it malfunctions no one will be there or awake to avert possible disaster.
- Do not leave dried clothes in the dryer or in a large pile. If the pile is large enough, and if the goods have certain physical properties, then it is possible that heat will build up inside the pile faster than heat is lost to the surrounding air causing spontaneous combustion and a fire.
- For the sake of your family and your home, keep your clothes dryer well-maintained and take the time to clean your laundry appliances and laundry room.