Firefighters put out Keystone fire sparked by chemical-soaked towels |

Firefighters put out Keystone fire sparked by chemical-soaked towels

Firefighters helped extinguish a pile of smoldering towels used to clean up a chemical spill on Tuesday morning. Lake Dillon Fire was called to a laundry facility operated by Keystone on Tennis Club Road at 9:30 a.m., where they neutralized a large bin full of smoking and burning towels using water and soda ash.

Steve Lipsher, public information officer for Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, said the towels were used to clean up a spill of 35 percent concentration hydrogen peroxide — more than three times the strength of hair bleach — that was used to clean a pool near the facility.

“The workers there mopped it all up using a bunch of towels, which were tossed in the laundry bin,” Lipsher said.

As the wet towels sat in a laundry bin, they began to oxidize due to the acidic hydrogen peroxide, and the cotton in the towels began to smolder.

“And, we had a case of spontaneous combustion going on,” Lipsher added. “It’s kind of like a high school chemistry experiment in some respects.”

The fire was quickly extinguished, and never escalated to a structure fire.

Firefighters evacuated the building, and ventilated it, clearing the area of smoke and toxic vapors. Two workers were treated at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center after they opened the laundry bin to investigate, inhaling some of the vapors and smoke, reporting shortness of breath and skin irritation.

Once the building was ventilated and cleaned up, workers were allowed back in the facility. No additional damage was reported.

“We sometimes see spontaneous combustion for people who put solvents on rags and put them in a bin with other rags,” Lipsher said. “Going in, we don’t necessarily know what’s causing the problem. That’s part of the whole process … our firefighters have to figure out what this is and what to do with it.”

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