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Oily rags blamed for fire at Sumatran Sun Trading Co. furniture store

Investigators gather outside the Sumatran Sun Trading Co. after the fire was put out early Wednesday. The fire did an estimated $25,000 damage to the furniture store.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Investigators gather outside the Sumatran Sun Trading Co. after the fire was put out early Wednesday. The fire did an estimated $25,000 damage to the furniture store.

DUNEDIN — An early-morning fire at a furniture showroom Wednesday had an unusual cause: Rags soaked with a finishing oil spontaneously ignited, authorities said.

No one was injured in the blaze that started about 6:45 a.m. at Sumatran Sun Trading Co., a furniture store and showroom at 2650 Enterprise Road, Unit E, just off U.S. 19. The company specializes in Indonesian teak root furniture and handmade crafts.

Dunedin fire officials said company employees were using a teak oil product on wood furnishings Tuesday night.

"There were cotton rags soaked in the teak oil product, a natural oil, and they had thrown them in the trash can in the bay," said Dunedin Fire Division Chief Bill McElligott.

The rags ignited, setting the trash can on fire. Cases of spontaneous combustion are extremely rare, but not unprecedented, McElligott said. Some stains, oils and varnishes can self-ignite if people don't properly dispose of them.

McElligott recommended that people use a safety container with a spring-loaded lid or a metal trash can with a tight-fitting lid to store rags soaked with oils.

No one was at the store when the fire started, officials said.

Dunedin firefighters, who were assisted by Clearwater Fire and Rescue, encountered heavy smoke when they arrived but were able to quickly extinguish the blaze, McElligott said. Although there are five businesses on the strip, no other stores were affected. Damage was estimated at about $25,000.

An employee who answered the phone Wednesday morning said workers were "knee deep in charred remains."

Oily rags blamed for fire at Sumatran Sun Trading Co. furniture store 10/26/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 7:56pm]
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