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The One Meridian Plaza building fire in Philadelphia several years ago, that resulted in the deaths of three firefighters, was started by linseed oil-soaked rags that were improperly stored. They spontaneously combusted, starting the fire. I investigated a fire in an aircraft hangar that also resulted from improperly stored rags soaked with linseed oil.
Fuel family mixtures such as gasoline, diesel fuel, fuel oil, aviation fuels, motor oils and grease do not have any double bonds in the compounds. These types of compounds cannot undergo spontaneous combustion and start fires because there is no double bond to break to produce heat required for spontaneous combustion to occur. These materials on rags have been blamed for causing fires in the past when it was not possible for them to be responsible.
Robert Burke will discuss "Hazardous Materials Response: Handling The Incident" at Firehouse Emergency Services Expo '98 in Baltimore July 15-19.
Robert Burke, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a fire protection/hazardous materials specialist for the University of Maryland and has served on state and county hazmat response teams. Burke is a veteran of over 16 years in career and volunteer fire departments, serving as assistant chief and deputy state fire marshal. He holds an associate's degree in fire protection technology and a bachelor's degree in fire science, and is pursuing a master's degree in public administration. Burke is an adjunct instructor at the National Fire Academy and Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, and is the author of the textbook Hazardous Materials Chemistry For Emergency Responders. He can be reached on the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.