By Marjorie Nesin Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — ROCKPORT — A local firefighter was transported to the hospital and a two-story Granite Street house was damaged after rags soaked in a wood refinishing polish burst into flames in the unoccupied house Sunday afternoon.
The firefighter, suffering chest pain after fighting the flames, was transported by ambulance to the hospital after firefighters stamped out the fire about 4:45 p.m., according to Fire Chief Jim Doyle. Doyle said the unidentified firefighter was scheduled to be released from the hospital Monday, since doctors kept the man overnight Sunday to observe his condition.
“It might have been just the work of putting out the fire,” Doyle said. “They just wanted to keep an eye on him.”
Doyle said the resident had been working with linseed oil, an oil used in wood restoration, and left the rags he applied the linseed oil with on the basement stairs when he left the house at 49 Granite St. Sunday morning.
Hours later, a Rockport police officer, driving down Granite Street, saw a plume of smoke rising from the blue-shingled house and alerted the fire department, according to Doyle.
“We got there and there was just a lot of smoke coming out of the building,” Doyle said.
Doyle said firefighters entered the building and immediately located the source of the fire in the cellar. The linseed oil combusted on one step, immediately separating the stairs above that step from the ones below it, then climbing up the stairway and burning up through the house, according to Doyle.
“The stairs dropped right off. They fell right there and the fire went up in the house,” Doyle said.
Doyle said linseed oil combustion is a common danger. He advised that people who use linseed oil place rags used with the oil in a metal container and keep that container outside of their residences or discard them.
“We’ve seen it happen before, that it’ll just combust. It’s heated up and it’ll just ignite itself,” Doyle said. “They’ll combust pretty easily.”
Two second floor windows were covered in plywood by Monday morning. The house suffered heat, water and smoke damage, but flames stayed contained within the structure, according to Doyle.
“It will be reparable,” Doyle said. “We stopped it before it got to the point where it came out the roof or anything like that.”
Doyle said had the fire begun during the heavy winds of Hurricane Sandy later Sunday night or Monday, the fire could have grown more severe rapidly.
“If it was at night with the wind we had and everything, it would have been a lot different,” Doyle said.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.