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Pizza ovens are for food, not towels, Waynesville fire chief warns Caseys
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (March 9, 2010) — Pizza ovens are supposed to be used for baking pizza, not towels, but according to Waynesville Rural Fire Chief Doug Yurecko, misuse of the oven by a late-night worker at Casey’s General Store in Waynesville came close to burning the store down.

Yurecko said numerous mistakes were made in handling the incident, which first came to his attention early Monday morning when his firefighters were paged out at 4:32 a.m. to a report of the store being filled with smoke from an unknown source.

“The employees arrived on scene, saw the smoke in the building, went to their manager’s house, got the manager. They came back to the store and made entry to find out what was burning. They found the building full of smoke, couldn’t figure out what caused it, and called 911,” Yurecko said.

Waiting to call 911 wasn’t wise, Yurecko said, and opening the door to feed oxygen to a potential fire was even worse.

“(Firefighters) did determine where the fire was with a thermal imager and determined it was contained to the stainless steel drawer,” Yurecko said.

That drawer contained burned towels that were still very hot hours after they had ignited, Yurecko said, and the heat from the blaze had caused plastic utensils on the stainless steel cabinet to melt and smoke.

“Our thermal imager was showing it was still a couple of hundred degrees. If it hadn’t been in a stainless steel drawer, or if it had been in a regular cabinet, we would have had a fully involved building,” Yurecko said.

The state fire marshal was called to the scene due to the unusual circumstances, and after investigation, determined that an employee’s actions on the previous shift had led to the fire.

“Apparently the dryer was out of order. The closest thing to another dryer they had was the pizza oven, so he put the towels in the pizza oven for a minute or two. That heated them up, dried them out, and he folded them and put them away,” Yurecko said. “There were probably some chemicals left on them, or the folding caused them to stay hotter. We really don’t have any way of knowing what caused them to catch on fire other than that they spontaneously combusted.”

Firefighters remained at the scene of the fire until about 8:30 a.m. clearing smoke from the building, but the store was then allowed to re-open. Pulaski County Health Department personnel also responded, but Yurecko said that after investigation, he believed they couldn’t find any food that needed to be thrown away other than donuts in a bakery case.

However, Yurecko said it’s important that people not use heating implements for purposes other than their intended use.

“You probably should make a mental note at home that if your dryer doesn’t work, don’t use your toaster oven to dry your socks or your dishwasher to wash your shirts,” Yurecko said.

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