Friday, July 27, 2012

The Time We Almost Burned Down My Parent's Garage

If I ever write a book someday this would go in it. Thankfully, it would only be a page or two on a chapter about all the things my dad has taught me (which could probably fill a whole separate book). Today's lesson: Spontaneous combustion is a real thing.
     When we arrived at the house to surf this morning there was something odd about the way my dad was acting, like he had something to say, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then he casually said, "So, what do you guys know about spontaneous combustion?". "Oh my gosh, what happened!?" was all I could say. Spontaneous combustion was something I thought of as a fake thing from horror movies where people caught on fire (weird, I know). He had prepared a presentation for us and I could tell he wanted to see this presentation through, so he didn't reveal what had happened just yet. 
     I knew it was serious when he pulled out his i-pad and began educating us on the subject, though he didn't seem upset. He just appeared ready to teach us a lesson. Despite my panicked questioning, my dad calmly continued reading the definition of spontaneous combustion off and explaining the types of materials that can cause it. After a few minutes that seemed like a day and a half, he led us to the garage where we saw it. The can sitting on the counter with charred towels. 
     After sanding and re-finishing the benches at my parent's house the day before, we left the rags with linseed oil on them in a pile on top of the container. Overnight, the rags spontaneously caught fire and luckily burned out once they made contact with the metal can. My dad said if the can lid hadn't been sealed so tightly, the fire could have caused the entire container to explode, likely burning down the garage and neighbor's house in the process. Luckily, that wasn't meant to be a part of our story.


What I've learned:
     Spontaneous combustion is combustion without a spark or a flame. I thought the oily rags needed contact with fire or at least the sun to burst into flames, but this is not the case. Linseed oil (and other materials) in a confined space can oxidize, build heat, and ignite. 


How to avoid spontaneous combustion: 
      Soak rags and brushes that have come in to contact with flammable materials, such as coals and oils, in water. Let them dry flat on a concrete surface so the combustable solvents can evaporate. Throw away the rags in a metal trashcan with a lid that seals. I've also heard you can put chemically soiled rags in a plastic bag filled with water and then throw them away. Whatever you do, don't wad them up and leave them on top of a chemical container in your parents garage! Lesson learned.
Find more tips HERE

12 comments:

  1. Oh! Luckily nothing else didn't get burned, that would have been a disaster.

    I learned about the spontaneous combustion in carpenter school. In the school we had a huge woodsand hoover and the container is just outside on the school wall. My teacher told how one student let the oily rag go into the hoover, and with time, it caught on fire inside the container and it did explode - destroying all cars parked near. Luckily no people got hurt. Hearing that story from a teacher who was missing fingers and stuff, I was sure he wasn't lying, so I was extra careful with the oily rags (and machines!) :)

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  2. Oh my gosh! Good to know! I had no idea.

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  3. I'm glad your parent's house is ok. Good karma on your side, it sounds like!

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  4. OMG! Glad it worked out though!

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  5. I almost did this in my own garage, but fortunately came out before it had burned more than the bucket the rags were in. Scary stuff!

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  6. I like the beginning sentences! You're writing is captivating.

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  7. Ohh! Not good! This could have gone sideways real fast! Looks like to some degree it already did!

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  8. so scary!! that's good that everything went okay!

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  9. oh my word! that is scary! I'm glad it wasn't anything worse.

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  10. Loving your blog. :) Have you already gone on your epic road trip? If you haven't and need any advice about SLC, let me know!

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  11. HOLY CRAP. That is kind of scary! I'm glad your story didn't "continue" after that!

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  12. Yikes! Such a blessing it wasn't worse.

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