House blaze sparked by oil-soaked rag that ‘self-ignited’
- Credit: Archant
An oily rag is thought to have sparked a fire that destroyed a shed and badly damaged a house in Woolpit.
The rag, soaked in linseed oil, had been screwed up and left in the shed next to the house in Wrights Lane, Woolpit, when it self-ignited in the sweltering heat.
The blaze, which set off a gas cylinder, caused extensive damage to the detached home of Mark and Lyn Young.
The Youngs had been watching television with their son Brandon when Mrs Young discovered the fire at around 8.30pm on Monday night.
Mrs Young, a full-time carer for 23-year-old Brandon, who has Prader-Willi syndrome, discovered the fire when she went to get him a drink.
“I went to the kitchen and saw the flames and smoke,” she said.
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“I shouted that there was something wrong and by the time we had got outside the whole shed had gone up. It was very scary.”
Mr Young said he had been using the rag earlier in the day to clean garden furniture and had left it in the shed after he finished.
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“It all happened so quickly,” he said.
“I saw what looked like lights flashing but they were actually flames. Thankfully we were all out by the time it went up, but had we stayed in the house any longer we would have been in trouble. The heat was immense.”
The fire spread from the shed to the adjoining house via a wooden fence, causing extensive damage to half of the building.
Mr Young, a lorry driver, praised the fire service for their response - five engines attended the incident - and neighbour Ged Darcy, a former firefighter, who helped them.
“They were here within a few minutes, they were brilliant, and Ged was really helpful talking us through what to do.” he said.
“At the end of the day, we got everybody out and our three dogs are safe, and that’s all that matters. Everything else lost in the fire is just stuff.”
Fire investigators were at the scene on Tuesday morning and Station Commander Mark Walker of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said the most likely cause appeared to be the rag and stressed the importance of disposing of oil-soaked materials properly.
“Linseed oil, and oils in general, self-heat,” he said.
“If the oil is trapped in the folds and creases of a rag it can’t dissipate quickly enough and can lead to combustion, as would appear to have happened here.
“The safest thing to do is to lay the rag out flat and allow it to dry.”