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Spontaneous Combustion and Charcoal


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6 replies to this topic

#1 OFFLINE   Medic5274

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 03:02 PM

The Dobbs Ferry Fire Department recently responded to an early morning fire in a single family residence. The fire originated in several plastic garbage pails outside the structure up against the house. The fire transmitted up the outside of the structure under the eaves and into the attic. The homeowners, who were asleep were unaware of the fire until they were awakened by the smoke detectors inside the house. The house suffered considerable damage in the attic and roof areas.

The C&O team made a determination the fire was the result of sponaneous combustion associated with wet charcoal. The homeowner reported several days earlier he accidently got water on a bag of charcoal. Thinking the charcoal was no good he disposed of it into a plastic pail with a lid. This was done two days before the fire.

I have had experience with spontaneous combustion fires associated with thinners,lacquers and linseed oil soaked rags disposed of into sealed containers. I have never seen or heard of this condition with charcoal. The C&O team reported it has to do with the compressed state of the charcoal and the chemical reactions that occur when the charcoal gets wet and begins to heat up.

Has anyone had a similiar expericence with charcoal? This was a new one for me and my department.

#2 OFFLINE   x129K

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 03:03 PM

Charcoal, no. Hay, yes.

Another good reason why I keep my trash can away from house. The other reason is bears..LOL
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#3 OFFLINE   ny10570

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 06:58 PM

Hay and coal spontaneously combust for different reasons. Hay is because it is still alive and capable of cellular respiration after harvest. A high enough moisture content not only allows this respiration to continue, but it also serves to insulate and help catalyze the reaction.

Charcoal I'm guessing goes the same way as coal. In the presence of an oxidative agent (air) the carbon in the charcoal reduces into CO2, CO, and heat. With enough ventilation charcoal shouldn't burn or react sufficiently to be perceptible. Wetting is an endothermic or heat trapping process. So the interface between wet and dry could take advantage of the increased heat from wetting and the natural decomposition of the charcoal. Seal that up tight in a plastic container and bingo, you've got a fire. Something like matchlite charcoal should be much more susceptible to this.

#4 OFFLINE   Bnechis

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 07:59 PM

Charcoal, no. Hay, yes.

Another good reason why I keep my trash can away from house. The other reason is bears..LOL

Being a city dweller, I never considered that bears could spontaneously combust. Good Idea then to keep them away from the house.

Maybe thats why Smoke Bear all ways said: "Only you can prevent forrest fires".

Smokey3.jpg
He was trying to deflect the cause from himself.

#5 OFFLINE   sjc317

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 08:29 PM

We had this happen about a year ago in a trailer on the metro north property. The charcoal was in a container in the trailer. Luckily, workers were in the trailer when it ignited and it was extinguished.

#6 OFFLINE   x129K

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Posted 12 July 2011 - 06:36 AM

Being a city dweller, I never considered that bears could spontaneously combust. Good Idea then to keep them away from the house.

Maybe thats why Smoke Bear all ways said: "Only you can prevent forrest fires".

Smokey3.jpg
He was trying to deflect the cause from himself.



LOL..
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#7 OFFLINE   kinkchaser

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Posted 12 July 2011 - 07:05 AM

Had a fire in stored charcoal in the cellar of a Super Market one summer afternoon, it just ignited.
Some folks believe that is what happened in the cellar of the Bengal Tiger in White Plains, as you know Indian resturants keep ample supplies of charcoal around for the tandori ovens,so this can happen again in most any supermarket or this type resturant




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