Oily rags spark fire, destroys Portland house

A transformer explosion set two houses on fire in the 4600 block of SW Vesta in Portland, April 14, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A transformer explosion set two houses on fire in the 4600 block of SW Vesta in Portland, April 14, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oily rags left on a back deck apparently spontaneously combusted and set one house on fire, which then set the second house ablaze.

A transformer explosion set two houses on fire in the 4600 block of SW Vesta in Portland, April 14, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A transformer explosion set two houses on fire in the 4600 block of SW Vesta in Portland, April 14, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

The fires erupted shortly before 2 p.m. in the 4600 block of SW Vesta in Portland. More than a dozen firetrucks responded.

Neighbors said they heard an explosion immediately before the fire, and firefighters initially believed a transformer exploded. But the homeowners, Nadine and Joe Kincaid – who weren’t home at the time – said they left the oily rags on their back deck.

A transformer explosion set two houses on fire in the 4600 block of SW Vesta in Portland, April 14, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A transformer explosion set two houses on fire in the 4600 block of SW Vesta in Portland, April 14, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

The Kincaids had been varnishing the deck.

That led to spontaneous combustion that sparked the blaze that destroyed the house.

How does spontaneous combustion work?

It spread quickly to the house next door, and firefighters managed to keep that home from becoming a total loss.

Investigators said anyone working with oily rags should put them in a metal container.

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