Several buildings caught fire at Camp Mah-Kee-Nac in Stockbridge

Berkshire County

Staining rags cause fire at Camp Mah-Kee-Nac

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. (WWLP) – Crews put out a fire at eight cabins that were caused by improper disposal of oily rags at a summer camp in Stockbridge Thursday.

Massachusetts Department of Fire Services Information Officer Jennifer Mieth told 22News, staff at Camp Mah-Kee-Nac were staining on the property and the oily rags were stowed in one of the cabins overnight. The chemicals evaporate and can generate heat when used, then with improper disposal of rags that are balled up or mixed with other trash can spontaneously ignite.

Stockbridge Fire Chief Vincent J. Garofoli and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said the cause of fire at Camp Mah-Kee-Nac, a summer camp in Stockbridge, was the improper disposal of oily rags. Eight cabins were destroyed, including one used to store pool chemicals.

MAP: Camp Mah-Kee-Nac

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) oversaw the removal of the remaining chemicals by a private hazardous materials removal contractor. The state’s Hazardous Materials Team monitored the fire ground for safety. Pool chemicals can cause toxic chlorine vapors when they get wet.

A firefighter was treated and released from the hospital due to injuries from the fire.

Proper handling of oily rags

Many people do not know that oily rags can spontaneously combust. Learn to handle and dispose of them safely.

Oily rags have a long history of being a source of fire because people are not aware that they can spontaneously combust. Proper disposal is key to preventing fires from oily rags. 

Safe disposal of oily rags

Oily rags are a source of fire because people don’t know that they can spontaneously combust. Dispose of rags safely in two steps: 

  1. Hang them outside to dry in a safe area or spread them out flat, making sure they are weighted down. They should not be in a pile. 
  2. Once they are dry:
    • For those who use oily rags daily or weekly: place dry rags in a listed oily waste container to be emptied by a private contractor.
    • For less frequent users: store dry rags in a small, airtight, non-combustible (such as metal) container with a tight-fitting lid. An old paint can is a good example. Cover the rags completely with a solution of water and an oil breakdown detergent. Do not add any other combustible material. Dispose of the container during a hazardous waste collection event.

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