Durango’s Bent Urban Sports Bar filled with smoke early Monday after oily and greasy rags began to decompose in a process known as spontaneous combustion.
Residents who live in apartments above the bar reported smoke about 4:30 a.m. at 42 East Animas Road (County Road 250).
“Luckily, we had people who smelled it and were able to make the phone call,” said Karola Hanks, fire marshal with Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.
Firefighters responded to find two tall kitchen-sized trash bags filled with rags that had turned black and were on the verge of igniting, Hanks said.
The rags had been taken to the laundry Sunday afternoon, but not all of the oil and grease had come out of them, Hanks said. When they were put into the drier, it helped speed up the decomposition process, she said.
Similar incidents have occurred at other restaurants, including Gazpacho New Mexican Restaurant and a former eatery at Cascade Village, she said. It also has been known to happen in massage studios, she said.
Hanks recommends businesses use professional services that clean rags rather than ordinary laundry machines, because normal detergents can’t get all of the oil and grease out of rags.
People who use rags for staining and cleaning should air them out before storing them in a metal container.
The sports bar suffered some smoke damage, but employees worked all day cleaning up and were open in time for Monday night football, said general manager Amber Pedigo.
“The smell is still lingering, but other than that, everyone is safe and we’re still functional,” she said.
She thanked the fire department.
“Hopefully this experience can educate other restaurant owners out there,” Pedigo said.