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Fire marshal: Spontaneous combustion of oily rags caused Eugene Mission fire

Spontaneous combustion of improperly stored oily rags caused a fire that forced 212 people to evacuate from the Eugene Mission and did $300,000 in damage to the shelter June 16, fire investigators determined. (SBG Photo)

EUGENE, Ore. - Spontaneous combustion of improperly stored oily rags caused a fire that forced 212 people to evacuate from the Eugene Mission and did $300,000 in damage to the shelter June 16, fire investigators determined.

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"Rags soiled with cooking oil were piled in a plastic container," reports Amy Linder, the Eugene-Springfield Fire Department deputy fire marshal. "Spontaneous combustion occurs as the oil breaks down and generates heat igniting the rags if the conditions are right."

Everyone evacuated safely, with 4 people reporting minor injuries related to the fire.

"Properly functioning fire alarms and evacuation procedures were key factors in the safety of occupants and limiting damage sustained," Linder reports.

The mission provides shelter for up to 400 people per night and serves more than 750 meals per day.

The fire badly damaged the kitchen, but the shelter will be available to house people who would otherwise be on the street.

The fire marshal offered advice for the operators of other kitchens to avoid a similar fire.

"A proper rag management program includes a noncombustible container, such as a metal can, with a self closing lid and laundering separately using detergent and processes specific to the type of flammable or combustible liquid or oil used," she reports.

Video: Aftermath of Eugene Mission fire

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