Spontaneous Combustion Causes Extensive FIRE Damage at Eagles Lodge

August 13, 2016

For the second time in 20 days, a fire sparked by the improper storage of oily towels has damaged a local business.

At approximately 2 a.m. Saturday morning, August 13, 2016, the Oak Ridge Fire Department was dispatched to a report of smoke coming from the structure at 1650 Oak Ridge Turnpike. The Fraternal Order of the Eagles Lodge was on fire. Upon arrival, the fire department found heavy smoke coming from the doors of the building. The fire crew entered through the front and rear doors and quickly extinguished the fire.

Front of Eagles Lodge after fire crews extinguished the flames early Saturday morning

The structure was unoccupied at the time of the fire and the damage was extensive. A member of the organization stated they had an alarm system, but there is no record of the alarm company calling 911 to report the fire. A passing motorist initially saw the heavy smoke coming from the structure and reported the fire to 911. The fire had spread throughout the upper levels of the structure, damaging the steel support beams and the remainder of the business suffered moderate heat, smoke and water damage.

This structure was built in the early 1970’s, according to members of the Lodge, and it was not equipped with sprinklers. On July 22, 2016, (20 days ago) a fire in a furniture shop on Warehouse Road was also started by disposal of oily rags used to refinish furniture. That structure was equipped with sprinklers and the fire caused minor damage. The furniture shop was able to reopen in just a few days. The Eagles Lodge will not be so fortunate. The damage is extensive and the structure may have to be rebuilt.

The cause of the fire appears to have been spontaneous combustion from oily rags stored after being laundered. Washing and drying oil soaked rags will not prevent spontaneous combustion. Many times the towels will catch fire while in the dryer.

These fires point out two critical safety items worth discussing:

  1. Sprinkler systems save lives and property. Many complain about the cost of maintaining a commercial sprinkler system, but the cost is fractional when compared to the loss of a structure, business and local jobs. The Warehouse Road fire in July was another excellent example of the sprinkler system controlling the flames and notifying the fire department for additional response. 
  2. This is the fourth fire in Oak Ridge in the past four years that was started by spontaneous combustion. Discarding oily rags from refinishing furniture, cleaning wood products, working in kitchens, or any other work that involves certain types of organic oil products such as furniture finishing products and cooking oils can begin to create internal heat to the point where the rags ignite. 
The rags should be kept in a covered metal container or laid out flat so the residue can evaporate prior to being disposed of.

If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our fire marshal’s office at (865) 425-3520 for assistance in proper storing and disposal of oil soaked rags.