May 22—Fire investigators recently determined the fire that broke out at Taco John's in late March started with cooking oil self-heating and igniting on soiled towels.
The Manhattan Fire Department responded to the fire at the fast-food Mexican restaurant at 214 Leavenworth St. at 5:05 a.m. March 28. The building was unoccupied at the time, and firefighters extinguished the flames within 30 minutes of their arrival.
Officials said the fire started in the rear storage area of the building, which they confirmed after obtaining security footage from the scene.
The business suffered approximately $600,000 in damage and remains closed.
A Government of Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services informational document on spontaneous combustion said it is well-recorded that organic oils have self-heating properties that can progress to a fire if not handled properly.
"When stored in bulk, there may be minimal increase in temperature, but if the oil is spread as a thin layer on a porous surface like cotton cloth, the surface area exposed to oxygen is increased and heating may occur," the document said.
MFD Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Almes said the department responds to a couple of these types of fires a year, but they're often caught before they can spread too far.
MFD investigators also confirmed that a fire at an unoccupied Yuma Street apartment complex May 15 started accidentally. They determined it began from an electrical overload of a multi-plug outlet in one of the units.
Crews had responded to the fire at 1200 Yuma St. at 8:10 p.m., finding smoke showing from the second floor of the three-unit building. They contained the fire, which caused an estimated $17,500 in damage, within 10 minutes.