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'Exploding tea towels' blamed for Cotswold pub fire

  • 5-7-2016

A Cotswold pub owner has called for better awareness of the danger of self combusting tea towels after her pub kitchen was destroyed in a fire.

Liz Henty, landlady of the Seven Tuns in Chedworth, Gloucestershire, said the blaze began after dirty tea towels were washed and tumble dried.

She said a forensic expert told her it was not uncommon, and she urged other businesses to be aware of the problem.

The fire service confirmed the "thankfully rare" phenomenon.

Ms Henty said she was "completely shocked" by what happened after her kitchen porter washed the dirty towels and put them in the tumble drier.

She added: "He took them out, folded them up and put them under the workbench - and then some time in the middle of the night they self combusted and burnt the whole kitchen down.

"It now looks like a Salvador Dali painting. Everything is melted and destroyed. There's nothing left."

She said the forensic expert told her the phenomenon was not rare in "restaurants, health spas and hairdressers" where traces of grease and oil are found on towels.

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.

"A chemical reaction can occur from drying oil on items such as tea towels, where heat gets trapped between layers of laundry.

"People should make sure they wash their tea towels at the correct temperature with the right detergent to remove any oils.

"Store them in a well ventilated area and make sure they've cooled down before folding them away."

Ms Henty added: "I don't understand why health and safety don't warn you of this danger. It should be flagged up."

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Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2016 BBC

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