Fire officials: Rockville townhouse fire caused by spontaneous combustion of oily rags

- A townhouse in a Rockville neighborhood went up in flames Wednesday and investigators say spontaneous combustion is the cause.

The homeowner of the townhouse was injured and his home is currently uninhabitable after the oily rags he used for a home project sparked the house fire.

Calls about the fire at this townhouse on Newton Drive in the Rockshire neighborhood came in at around noon.

“We had just come home and I had walked down on the deck and I saw some black smoke,” said neighbor David Pile. “I told my wife Linda to call 911. She was in the house and she called immediately. “

Ultimately more than 40 firefighters responded to extinguish flames sparked by the discarded oily rags. They burned for about ten minutes leaving behind debris and more than $20,000 in damage.

 

“I think they have been doing some remodeling in the basement, part of their house,” said David Pile.

“I was extremely stressed out because it was right here beside of the deck and the flames kept getting higher and it was going quickly,” said Linda Pile.

Charred siding, insulation and a melted grill are some of the things leftover in the aftermath of the fire.

“The homeowner apparently left some oily rags in the back of the house in the patio area,” said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. “I guess the weather conditions were just right. The warm sun and the low humidity resulted in spontaneous combustion of these oily rags which ignited.”

And it's not a first.

“About a year ago in June of 2016, we had a million dollar house that was a total loss. That was caused by oily rags,” said Piringer. “Make sure that you dispose of those oily bags properly. Typically that is in a metal container with a tight lid.”

The homeowner suffered burns and was treated on the scene, but did not want to be transported to the hospital.

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