A FIRE that damaged two Wigan houses was caused by an extremely rare natural occurrence.
Three fire crews from Wigan and Hindley were required to put out the blaze that started in a shed in between two bungalows on Allscott Way, Ashton.
Oily rags near to paint tins and petrol cans have been cited as possible causes by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue in a case of “spontaneous combustion”.
Tony Wilkinson of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service investigation team, said: “This kind of spontaneous combustion involving rags or clothing does happen, but it’s unusual and it’s not something to be too worried about.
“It can happen if rags have been soaked in certain types of oil and scrunched up. Over time, they can generate their own heat and eventually, if the circumstances are right and there’s enough oxygen, they can burst into flames.”
Several houses either side of the blaze were evacuated by fire crews who were called just after 8.30pm on Monday night.
A fire service spokesman confirmed that no-one was injured although one property was left uninhabitable with the elderly couple who lived there having to stay the night with friends.
Neighbour Mark Hayes, 34, said: “I heard someone shout ‘call the fire brigade’ from out in the street.
“I looked out and the back of the house was engulfed in flames.
“It took some effort for the firefighters to get it under control, by that time there were about 20 people out in the street as well as the fire engines, ambulance crew and police officers. The main thing is no-one was hurt, it’s one of those unfortunate incidents.
“I have been round with a card and some flowers for the owners, we will all rally round to help.”
Four fire officers managed to fight the flames using breathing apparatus, a hose reel, covering jets and a fan appliance to clear the smoke.
The shed was completely destroyed with damage also caused to the property’s roof and a shed attached to an adjacent property.
Mr Wilkinson issued a warning to residents to prevent similar incidents involving oily rags from occurring.
He said: “If you are mopping up spillages of oil or using rags that are soaked in oil, they should not be stored in a confined space and scrunched or piled up together.
“If possible, they should be laid out flat and left to dry.”