Fire Marshal: Spontaneous Combustion Sparks Business Fire

A fire that caused several hundred thousand dollars in damage to a Johnston County convenience store has been blamed on spontaneous combustion.

Shortly after midnight Friday morning, a fire caused extensive damage to the T-Mart on Highway 301 at Highway 242 in Benson.

Today (Tuesday), the Johnston County Fire Marshal’s Office officially ruled the fire as accidental due to spontaneous combustion of greasy cleaning cloths left in the kitchen area. Fire Marshal Adam Stanley said store security video shows the cloths, which had become saturated with oil or grease, self-heating then self-igniting.

“While it is rare it does happen,” Stanley told WTSB News.  “We were fortunate enough that the T-Mart had video cameras and we were able to view the footage and actually see the fire start.”

Stanley said it is important to properly discard cleaning cloths that have come in contact with oil and grease.  Washing the cloths and drying them in a clothes dryer actually allows the grease to begin heating up, especially if the cloths are folded or placed in piles after coming out of the dryer.

The best method is to discard cleaning cloths in a UL listed waste receptacle which limited the amount of oxygen available to the waste.  If you must was the cloths, wash them in hot water to release the oil from the porous materials, then air dry by hanging to allow any fumes to dissipate.

It is unknown when the T-Mart can reopen. Officials said there is no current time set.

The Benson, Elevation and Four Oaks Fire Departments responded to the fire. Photos courtesy