Reminder of the fire hazards of oil painting

Here’s a story highlighting the danger of fire that oil painters need to consider. A fire started in a high rise in Vancouver. The article explains the causes.

The fire was started by improperly stored linseed oil rags.

“Linseed oil is a natural oil and natural oils have a self-heating property. If you use a rag you have to store it in a proper container,” said Assistant Chief Ray Bryant.

In this case, the rags were left in a ball on a piece of cardboard.

“When you do that with a self-heating oil… it can’t release the heat that’s generated as the product starts to dry,” Bryant said, adding that temperatures within the rag can reach up to 500 degrees.

“It takes about three hours for the self-generation of heat to occur, and that’s what happened in this case.”

The rags were stored outside on the balcony. The cardboard ignited close to a glass window, the glass shattered and the fire spread into the suite.

Interesting that the rags were actually outside and still started a fire. The advice on what to do with these oily rags was given as:

Bryant said the proper way to store rags used with natural oil is to lay them flat on a non-flammable surface.

“They will naturally dry over a day or two and become hard,” he said. “When they become hard and fully dry you can actually put them in the garbage quite safely.”

Alternatively, the rags can be stored for re-use in a lidded metal container. They can also be stored in a bucket of water.

“This will take care of any self-combusting problems.”

This advice holds true for those living in places like apartment buildings. Personally, I collect them at the end of the day, put them in the fireplace and burn them immediately.