Ian Juleff, owner of the Clean and Green Laundry in North Lismore, sorts through laundry that caught on fire in one of the shop’s dryers yesterday.
Ian Juleff, owner of the Clean and Green Laundry in North Lismore, sorts through laundry that caught on fire in one of the shop’s dryers yesterday. Cathy Adams

Oily towels start fire in dryer

QUICK thinking and a good fire plan saved the Clean and Green Laundry in North Lismore from a load of self-combusting towels yesterday.

While that may sound as silly as something from the Hitchers Guide to the Galaxy, owner-operator Ian Juleff, himself a Rural Fire Service firefighter, said it was a potentially deadly phenomenon that was well known in the laundry industry – though this was his first incident at the Terania Street business in five years.

Mr Juleff said that oil or grease embedded in tea towels, dirty overalls, massage towels, or the like, was at risk of reaching its combustion point in clothes dryers.

“You should never put greasy tea towels or clothes in dryers,” he said, explaining that the consequences could be devastating.

Mr Juleff was out the back of the premises doing bookwork when he smelled the smoke.

“At first I thought the computer was on fire,” he said.

He immediately called the fire brigade, then used a fire extinguisher to douse the smouldering load before removing it to the safety of the street.

“Because I’m in the RFS I’m very careful about fire – you could call me paranoid as we’re so well protected here,” he said.

“You should always call the fire brigade. You might think you’ve extinguished it, but fires can easily re-ignite. You might be a bit embarrassed, but it beats losing your whole place.”

Mr Juleff, who owns the business with wife Jennifer, takes fire safety seriously. “The whole interior has 26 millimetre fire checks on the walls and ceiling, giving us a one hour fire rating,” he said.

NSW Fire Brigade duty officer Jim Conners commended MrJuleff’s quick response.

“Ian did all the right things. He didn’t panic and called the fire brigade first – if it’s fire, you should always call the fire brigade first,” he said.

“We want to remind people to always discard oily rags because they can also generate their own heat as the oil breaks down – much like compost.

“Oil-soaked fabrics can actually heat to their ignition point and spontaneously combust, so never keep oily rags in the house or the garage.

“And, like Ian said, massage towels are common offenders in laundromats.”

Officer Connners also reminded householders to be extremely careful with heaters and appliances now winter has arrived. “People think summer is our busiest time, but it’s actually winter,” he said.



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