Combustible substances are found frequently in homes and in certain types of businesses, like oil based paints for staining wood, or gasoline for lawn mowers, generators, and other small machinery. So whether you have a home or a business with combustible materials around, here is some important information you need know about spontaneous combustion.
In case your elementary science knowledge is dusty, spontaneous combustion is when a substance ignites in flames due to the components mixing with oxygen (oxidation). Substances like gasoline, lacquers, paint thinner, and other flammable liquids all release fumes and heat as they evaporate. When rags that are soaked in these liquids are left in an unventilated area, the fumes and heat buildup enough to reach the point of ignition, known as spontaneous combustion.
There are some simple ways you can protect your home or business from this fire hazard:
- Do not pile rags soaked in a combustible material on top of each other. Lay them out to dry in a well ventilated area, far away from structures, if possible. A cool location, out of direct sunlight is ideal.
- If the rags cannot be laid out, place them in a metal container with a tight fitting lid, filled with water and detergent. The detergent will break down the oils, and the lid will prevent oxygen from being available for vapors to oxidize.
- Store gasoline, kerosene, and other flammable liquids in a container approved only for that purpose and with a tight fitting cap to contain the fumes. Never use flammable liquids as a cleaning agent or to break down grease.
- Never disable fire suppression systems or fire alarms. If a fire starts at a vacant home or jobsite, sprinklers and alarms will help get firefighters on the scene to control the fire. The sooner the fire is controlled, the less damage will occur to the structure.