A fire caused by a chemical reaction from oily rags damaged portions of a downstairs laundry room at Park Vista Retirement Community in Port Orchard. A single sprinkler head in the ceiling extinguished the fire. Photo: South Kitsap Fire and Rescue

Sprinkler head extinguishes fire in retirement community

PORT ORCHARD — A fire in a basket filled with oily rags in a downstairs laundry room at Park Vista Retirement Community Sept. 28 was extinguished by South Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighters.

SKFR dispatched 16 apparatus and support vehicles to the Port Orchard retirement community at 2944 SE Lund Ave. An additional engine responded from Bremerton Fire Department.

As firefighters opened the door to the laundry room, they noticed smoke in the room, Assistant Chief Jeff Faucett said. One sprinkler head had been activated by heat from the fire, he added. Additional crews arriving were able to assist Park Vista’s staff in moving residents to a safe location in the building.

“Once the rags ignited, the fire traveled up a wall and extended to cabinets above the basket,” Faucett said. “The flames generated enough heat to activate the sprinkler head, which extinguished the fire.”

Deputy Fire Marshal Brad Wiggins said the fire could have been much worse. “Given the time of night, the number of residents and the fact that many of them need assistance moving around, things could have been worse,” Wiggins said. “The sprinkler system, the fire alarm system and Park Vista staff did their job and that is the reason for the positive outcome.”

The fire was caused by a chemical reaction from oily rags piled in a basket, Faucett said. The rags had been used to clean ovens and were soaked in grease. He said it is common for fabric material that has been soaked in oil to have a chemical reaction that will heat up to the point of ignition.

Giving oily rags a run-through in a washing machine typically won’t remove the oils, he noted.

Fire department officials said the fire was the second this year that SKFR has responded to where a single sprinkler has saved a commercial structure from fire loss.

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