March 11, 2015

The Mystery Of Spontaneous Combustion

BY LEE COLEMAN

In recent days, there were two fires within three days that called upon the might of the Hazen Fire Department, Leland Olds personnel, the Stanton Fire Department and the City of Hazen working in conjunction with the Hazen Fire Department.
Two weeks ago Saturday, a fire started in a coal cone in the yard of the Leland Olds Power Station. The following Monday, a fire started in the City of Hazen grass and leaf dump.
Both fires were extinguished without any injuries, thankfully, so the question turned to what caused the fires.
One answer for both fires: spontaneous combustion.
This occurs when self heating (rise in temperatures due to internal reactions) is followed by thermal runaway (self heating rapidly accelerating to high temperatures), thus causing ignition.
At the Leland Olds fire, coal deep in the middle of the stacked cone began heating and was introduced to oxygen that sparked smoldering and smoke, eventually igniting.
At the grass dump, the rotting grass and leaves created heat that resulted in an oxygen-fed fire.
For example, hay, straw, and peat are considered the main culprits in spontaneous combustion.


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