Tea towels are the cause of a fire which destroyed the kitchen of Cotswold pub, the Seven Tuns Inn.
The night before, the kitchen porter had washed and tumble dried the 30 tea towels, before folding them into a neat pile. This process meant it was exposed to more oxygen, and overnight, the grease residue resulted in a build-up of heat, causing them to ignite.
However, the blaze could have been a lot worse. Thanks to the fire doors, the fire was contained to just one area of the Grade II-listed, 17th-century pub.
Landlady Liz Porter said: “Everybody moans and groans about fire regulation but the fire doors saved us.”
She has now warned people to make sure tea towels are cooled down and completely grease-free after they are taken out of the tumble dryer.
John Beard, from Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We’ve seen examples of this type of ‘self-combustion’ across the UK, but thankfully they are rare.”
This is quite an unusual and rare phenomenon. However, after drying cooking equipment, it makes sense that they would pick up their fair amount of oil and fat over time.
So make sure the right precautions are taken in your busy kitchen to ensure it doesn’t succumb to the same fate.
Make sure to wash tea towels at the correct temperature, and use a detergent which removes oils.
After drying, give them time to cool down before folding them up and stacking in a neat pile. It also helps to store them in a well-ventilated area.
However, this story does highlight the importance of following fire regulations and shows how effective they are.
Not only are the doors themselves able to withstand a fire for long amounts of time, but the intumescent strips around the edge are also important. When exposed to extreme temperatures, they expand and seal off the door. This prevents the fire from spreading.
And that’s why you should keep them shut, rather than wedging them open.
In this instance, no-one was in the building at the time. This meant that no-one was around to react to the fire alarm when it was activated.
However, had people been there, it would have given them plenty of time to make their exit. The exit route would have been unhindered thanks to the fire doors doing their job.
In kitchen areas, heat detectors are by far the most effective. They are far less likely to be affected by steam, like a smoke detector might, and cause a false alarm.
It’s also important that you have the correct fire extinguishers in your kitchen. For example, a wet chemical extinguisher is essential for fires involving fats, oils and grease, as water would instead aggravate the flames.