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Naval Combustibles

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Hereís one of those believe-it-or-not hazards that is both mysterious and potentially serious. A batch of napkins, mess-deck cloths and galley rags had just emerged from the dryers. The Sailors in the laundry let them cool for 10 minutes, then piled them in a laundry cart to await pressing and folding. Taps sounded, so the laundry went to parade rest until the next day. Nearly eight hours later, watchstanders heard the high-temp alarm for the laundry. They raced down to investigate. The space was locked, so one of them had to hustle back to CCS for the keys. The other watchstander felt heat radiating from one of the laundryís bulkheads and formally reported a fire. Two crew members who were working out nearby in the shipís gym kicked in the laundry door and found a class alpha fire burning in the laundry cart. A CO2 bottle squelched the blaze. So, what started the fire? Spontaneous combustion (cue the "Twilight Zone" soundtrack). Some of the rags had been used to clean up cooking oil. After drying, when the still-hot fabric was piled in the cart, heat didnít dissipate, it built up. The prevention technique for this is to shake any laundry that is going to be left in carts overnight, and feel the sides of the carts to see if they are hot. None of the current supervisors knew this precaution. Minor damage this time, but that sure isnít guaranteed.

Once at the Naval Academy, a worker who was refinishing floors had to sand up some fresh varnish that hadnít been applied correctly. He left the varnish-saturated sawdust in the floor sanderís collection bag overnight, where it stayed until it burst into flames, triggering a fire that destroyed a historic building.



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