LA MESA (CNS) - Oily rags burst into spontaneous combustion and caused propane tanks to explode outside a La Mesa restaurant Sunday, causing about $50,000 in damage, fire officials said.
Ten-foot-high flames were shooting out of five or six exploding tanks behind the Gingham restaurant at 8384 La Mesa Blvd. shortly before 6 a.m., according to Sonny Saghera, public information officer for Heartland Fire & Rescue.
Up to 10 of the about 35 propane tanks in the area had ruptured, he said.
Investigators determined oily rags piled in a bin near the tanks had spontaneously ignited. Oily fumes had built up heat and then burst into flame.
Firefighters stretched hose lines to the building's exterior and immediately doused the fire while they cooled the remaining tanks, Saghera said. Crews confined the blaze to the outside of the restaurant and a nearby music store, he said.
The fire caused about $50,000 in damage to the structure and its contents.
Saghera said rags or towels that were used to clean up oil or grease should be laid out to dry, not balled up, before they are stored in approved containers.
Gingham is the third culinary effort of celebrity chef Brian Malarkey and James Brennan, according to the restaurant's website.