Officials point to spontaneous combustion of oil-soaked rags in Port Angeles garage fire

PORT ANGELES — A fire was confined to a garage and emergency officials believe it was caused by the spontaneous combustion of oil-soaked rags.

There were no injuries to two adults and a child who lived in the residence that was attached to the garage in the 1300 block of East Seventh Street in Port Angeles, city Assistant Fire Chief Mike Sanders said.

The house was not damaged, Sanders said.

Port Angeles Fire Department personnel were dispatched to the address at 10:42 p.m. Tuesday night.

The fire, which blackened the inside walls of the garage with flames that were visible from outside the structure, was extinguished 16 minutes later, Sanders said.

Clallam County Fire District 2 personnel also assisted under a mutual aid agreement with the city.

The value of boats, kayaks and other items in the garage that were damaged was unavailable, Sanders said.

“From the officer’s report, his assessment was that the homeowner was doing some woodworking and staining and repairing and had discarded rags in a paper sack,” Sanders said.

“We believe the cause of the fire was spontaneous combustion from oil soaked rags.”

Rags soaked with paint, solvents and oils should be deposited in a sealed metal container to prevent the chemical reaction that causes combustion, he said.

Cloth soiled in that manner is prone to heating from within and igniting on its own, he said.

“It happens more often than you would think,” Sanders said.


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at

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