GRAFTON (CBS) — A weekend fire at the State Police Museum and Learning Center was caused by the spontaneous combustion of oily rags left by workers, the State Fire Marshal’s office announced Monday morning.

The fire began around 9:30 p.m. Saturday on the second floor of the museum on Worcester Street in Grafton.

Firefighters were able to save many of the artifacts, photographs, and pieces of memorabilia in the museum using quick thinking–and salvage covers. Those covers protected the pieces on the lower floors from water damage as crews put out the flames.

“The MSP is grateful beyond words for their efforts in preserving the numerous artifacts and photographs from the department’s 151-year history that are on display,” State Police Colonel Richard D. McKeon said in a statement.

State Fire Marshal Peter. J. Ostroskey said workers had been in the building earlier in the day to refinish wooden molding in a second floor conference room, and left sawdust- and stain-soiled oily rags in a plastic trash bag.

“As flammable oil from rags dry out, they produce heat that can start a fire like this one which is why it is important to dispose of oily rags properly,” Ostroskey said in the statement. “When balled up with combustibles like sawdust, a fire can quickly start.”

The Fire Marshal’s office said oil and gas-soaked rags should be hung outside to dry in a safe area–or spread out flat and weighted down outdoors–but never placed in a pile. After they are dry, they should be put in a small, airtight, and non-combustible container.

For those who use oily rags more frequently, they should be placed in a designated oily waste container that is emptied by private contractors.

Ostroskey said the building was not equipped with a sprinkler system.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports




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