KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- A fire that closed a Depot Street restaurant for the day on Friday was caused by an unlikely source: Oily rags.
Jeff Vickers, deputy chief of the Bennington Fire Department, said firefighters were called to the Bennington Station, 150 Depot St., at 8:27 a.m. where rags that had used to clean up grease had smoldered overnight and caught fire in their hamper left atop a dryer. Vickers said the rags had been washed, and it is believed that the grease and cleaning chemicals led to the eventual flames.
The fire occurred in the restaurant's basement. The sprinkler system activated, but did not douse the fire. Firefighters extinguished it easily, but the real damage was from smoke, which the department worked to clear from the building.
"In the past year or two we've had a number of calls for this exact same thing, where there is oil in rags from restaurants catching fire," said Vickers.
No serious fires
None of the fires have been serious, and some have happened at the Bennington Dry Cleaners and Coin-Op Laundry where a few restaurants send their oily rags for cleaning, said Vickers. "There's definitely a clear trend," he said.
Why it has been an issue only in the past few years Vickers said he is not certain, but the department is doing some research and considering spreading the word to restaurants about the hazard.
Jim Secor, owner of the Bennington Station, said the restaurant will be open by noon on Saturday in time to catch business from the Bennington Car Show. Smoke entered the kitchen and dining room areas but there was no major fire damage to speak of, he said.
"The big loss is the produce we have to throw out for the Health Department," he said, adding that precautions will be taken in the future to avoid the problem happening again.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.