Julie Ann Bertram
Special to the Tribune
Sophie and Serge Larocque had been working diligently on their dream home on Leduc Road in Field and were nearly done the build when the unthinkable happened. They walked in around 6 pm on Tuesday, March 28 and found flames in their brand new house. The previous night, they had been staining inside and had left oily rags in a garbage bag, ready to continue later. They left around midnight and returned the next evening ready to roll up their sleeves and continue, but they got a shock instead. Spontaneous combustion from the oily rags had caused a fire.
Serge immediately went to work throwing snow until he could no longer see flames. Swiftly running out and shutting the door to stop the influx of air from re-igniting the fire, he called 911. Without his calmness and quick thinking, Sophie says that firefighters noted it would have been much worse. Fire crews from River Valley, Field, and Sturgeon arrived promptly and took care of any further damage.
In a heartfelt social media post, Sophie expressed disbelief and gratitude all at once. “We’ve got this, one day at a time, still trying to wrap my head around it all, can’t believe this is happening, it all happened so fast, feels like a nightmare and I’ll wake up soon, but we are still all together and no one is hurt,” she wrote, adding she was focusing on the positive.
What she most wanted to get across was the danger of which she and Serge themselves had been unaware until it was too late.
“In case some of you don’t know, like we didn’t, and many we talked to also had no idea, the fire was started by rags I was using to wipe off the stain from my wood boards and tossing them in a garbage bag. Nothing else was in there, or close around it, the rags caught fire all on their own! It creates heat, and with the sun coming into the house today, it made it hotter. Hope this can help others and warn people to be aware so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. If you stain, put your rags in a pail of water outside your home!”
Spontaneous combustion occurs when oily rags or cloth begin to dry in a process called oxydation, the same process that generates fire. If the heat has no way to escape, the temperature will rise to a level high enough to ignite the oil and rags. An effective preventative when disposing of oily rags is to cover them with water in a closed metal container. Don’t throw hazardous waste in the garbage, down the sink or in the sewer, bring it to the nearest Household Hazardous Waste depot.
The Larocque family is safe. They are not deterred and will continue building their dream home, it will take just a little longer now.