Warning after tea towels spontaneously combust


A fire investigator is warning about the dangers of spontaneous combustion after a pile of tea towels caught fire.

It's a lot more common than you think, and it nearly cost one Auckland laundromat owner his livelihood.

Today Jason Lee was back to work; his Sandringham laundromat reopening six months after it was gutted by fire.

But what caused the blaze has left him in disbelief.

"The fireman told me that the cause of the fire was the tea towels," he says.

Mr Lee washed the tea towels and after removing them from the drier, put them in a pile.

Nine hours later they spontaneously ignited.

Mr Lee is still waiting on the back of his shop to be fixed up. It's a daily reminder of how lucky he was nobody was hurt.

The Fire Service says it's not uncommon -- last year alone, 27 fires started through spontaneous combustion.

Residue from organic oil like those used for cooking are the cause, the Fire Service says.

The oil can keep heating up after the fabric is removed from the dryer.

"That's when the spontaneous heating continues to heat up and the towels, clothing can just self-ignite," fire investigator Russell Dickson says.

To stop that happening, laundry must be aired and cooled thoroughly after it's come out of the dryer.

Now, Mr Lee takes no chances -- he checks all towels for organic oils and packs laundry immediately after drying.