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The Unlikely Culprits of Restaurant Fires

A Nottingham restaurant was forced to close after hot tea towels spontaneously combusted causing the premises to catch light.

The blaze started at the Crimson Tree restaurant, Sherwood, on Sunday 4th February 2018 after hot tea towels from a tumble dryer were placed together in a basket.

The owner of the restaurant said it was “scary” that something so simple caused the fire. £25,000 worth of damage was caused and the business is still closed while repairs are carried out.

She went on to say “It’s devastating but could have been an awful lot worse, so we are just grateful nobody got hurt.”

Dave Cross, an east midlands fire investigator, said this happened about four to five times a year in the region’s restaurants and hotels.

He continued to say that tea towels in restaurants could get a build-up of fats and oils – and washing detergent did not get rid of this completely.

“You then put them in the tumble dryer and raise the temperature. When you take them out, what you are actually doing is compressing the middle of the tea towel pile and, as the heat is there and the fats are there, they start an exothermic reaction.

“This means they start to heat up but because they are enclosed you can’t get rid of heat, so eventually they get hot enough to set fire.”

What causes tea towels to spontaneously combust?

  • Tea towels and other laundry used in restaurants and other workplaces can contain higher volumes of fat and oil, even after washing
  • Putting the towels in tumble dryers raises the temperature. If a large bundle is left to cool, heat can be stored in the middle towels
  • The mix of high temperatures and fats can cause an exothermic reaction, which can cause a fire to start

Want to make sure your restaurant is protected from fire? Give us a call on 0845 402 3045 or email

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