IRVINE : Home Burns After Stored Rags Ignite

A home was nearly destroyed Wednesday after spontaneous combustion occurred in a bundle of rags stored in a kitchen cabinet.

Nobody was in the house, at 19115 Sierra Majorca Road, when neighbors saw it burning just after 9 a.m.

"This is an odd chain of events," said Orange County Fire Department Capt. Dan Young. "The rags were stacked up in the pantry. When the organic cleaning product (on the rags) begins to decompose, that generates heat. When they are stored in a closed space, the heat has nowhere to go and can combust."

Young said that in order for rags to combust, they have to be smeared with the organic cleaning product, such as a wood stain. In as little as six hours, the temperature at the core of such rags can reach 1,200 degrees and bring on ignition, he said.

The residents told firefighters that they had smelled smoke Tuesday night but were unable to locate the cause. Monday morning, when nobody was home, the fire spread from the pantry to the attic and onto the roof, Young said.

The fire was contained by county firefighters in about 20 minutes. Damage was estimated at $130,000.

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