Public Safety

Fire department says restaurant fire in SW Cedar Rapids caused by spontaneous combustion

CEDAR RAPIDS — After two days of investigation, Cedar Rapids authorities determined that spontaneous combustion sparked the fire that damaged Campus Gyro and Ice Cream.

Public safety spokesman Greg Buelow said firefighters were dispatched to the restaurant, 45 Kirkwood Ct. SW, about 11:45 p.m. Sunday when the owner of an adjacent business reported flames coming from the gyro business.

Firefighters quickly contained and put down the blaze, a news release said, but the restaurant suffered significant fire, heat and smoke damage.

Buelow said the spontaneous heating of towels and aprons that were laundered Sunday afternoon and placed into a laundry bag while still hot sparked the blaze. The laundry bag was being stored in the kitchen.

On July 23, 2014, a similar fire occurred at the Chrome Horse Saloon, 1202 Third St. SE.

In that case, Buelow said spontaneous heating of rags and towels caused the fire. The blaze started in a plastic bucket that contained towels and rags that had been used to wipe down surfaces that likely contained animal fats or other substances susceptible to spontaneous combustion. The bucket was kept under a table in the kitchen.

Buelow said the towels and rags smoldered before generating enough heat to result in spontaneous combustion. The fire was determined to be unintentional.

The owner of Chrome Horse Saloon cooperated with the fire department, and video surveillance footage from the kitchen area was released publicly in an effort to educate business owners of the dangers of spontaneous heating.

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The video still is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OM7r4nfC4MY.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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