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Rain jacket catches pile of laundry on fire in Burlington home

Burlington firefighters said the homeowner was away at work when his laundry caught fire in the bedroom.

BURLINGTON, N.C. — When you think about laundry, most often people think about the fire coming from the lint trap, but for Anthony Mebane, it wasn't the dryer that was the issue. 

On Tuesday morning, while Mebane was at work, he got a call from his alarm company who said his fire alarm was going off. 

"They were like, 'Sir, your alarm has been sounded,' and I said well okay, let me check it out, so I went on my phone and investigated and saw as I was looking through my cameras, I saw a fire officer approaching my doorstep," said Mebane.

He said he asked the officer through his phone if he could explain what was going on and that's when he learned, while at work, that his house was on fire. 

Firefighters forced their way inside the home since Mebane was still at work. They got the fire out in 15 minutes. Once the fire was out, that's when fire crews started investigating. 

"He was just asking me, you know, did I smoke anything? I said no, I don't smoke or do anything," said Mebane. "He asked me, you know where were the clothes at and I said right on the corner of the bed where I put all my storage and that was it."

That's when crews learned his work jacket caught fire. 

"What it appeared that this fire had resulted from was the resident that had lived there had done some laundry, and right before leaving for work, had pulled some laundry out the dryer and sat her down in the bedroom," said Burlington Fire Public Information Officer, Daniel Shoffner. "Apparently, there was some type of jacket made of some type of synthetic material polyester like where the care tags suggested to hang dry and to not put in the dryer."

Shoffner said the jacket overheated and it held in that heat to the extent that when it was put in a pile in the bedroom, it smoldered and eventually the clothes combusted. 

Mebane said when they told him, he couldn't believe it. 

"I mean, it was it was incredible because I have not, I mean all the years of washing clothes, nothing ever happened to me in that capacity, you know, and I mean, initially when I when I first heard about I didn't believe it," said Mebane. 

It was also the first time the fire department had ever seen this happen before. 

To top it off, Mebane works as a safety control officer and manages fire safety at work. 

"I'm pretty much trained for emergencies like smoke, with fire," he said. 

The fire caused around $30,000 in damage. While he is sad to see his home engulfed in flames, he said he was lucky it ended the way it did. 

Firefighters said a working alarm system helped them get the fire out quickly, preventing further damage.

"In this situation it really did save the rest of that house and it did minimize damage," said Shoffner. "The fire alarm system worked, it activated the fire department, they responded quickly and they were able to contain the fire to the bedroom, which is really big in this instance because if that fire alarm system hadn't been working, then our fire crews probably wouldn't not have been dispatched until much later especially this time of day, when neighbors were likely asleep and wouldn't have seen anything happening, so it would have been much much worse."

Best advice for anyone doing laundry from the fire department is to check the tags before throwing them in the was and if you're not sure just air dry the clothing. 

Also, if there is any oil on clothing, don't throw them in the dryer until it is completely washed out because that can add fuel to the hot clothes. 

Lastly, they said to separate the clothing out to let it get some air and ensure it's not set on things that could catch fire easily. 

Credit: WFMY
This pile of laundry caught fire on a Burlington man's bed. He left for work when the clothes - fresh out of the dryer - began to smolder.

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