By Bethany Bray
---- — BEVERLY — Investigators have determined yesterday’s stubborn fire at 18 Corning St. was started by contaminated rags that spontaneously combusted in the garage.
It took firefighters more than two hours to bring the two-alarm fire under control Monday evening. Neighbors at the scene said they heard a series of explosions as the fire raged.
The homeowner is a painter, said Beverly fire Capt. Jeff Sirois. He had cleaned out his truck before the fire started and placed a bunch of rags in a trash barrel in the garage.
“We believe (the cause) is careless disposal of rags (and) spontaneous combustion,” Sirois said. “Unfortunately, there is so much damage to the garage, it’s difficult to be 100 percent sure ... We believe the rags had something on them.”
The fire caused extensive damage, traveling through the garage, attic and roof. There was also considerable smoke and water damage, and power was shut off to the property.
The entire home will have to be overhauled, and it will be uninhabitable for the near future, Sirois said.
City records show 18 Corning St. as being owned by Francis and Mary DeLeo. Sirois said he believed the homeowners were staying with family.
No one was home at the time of the fire, and no injuries were reported.
The fire’s cause was determined to be accidental, and no charges or fines will be issued, Sirois said.
“It was an unfortunate accident,” he said.
Sirois estimated that Beverly has had six to eight fires started by contaminated rags during the last 15 or 20 years. Many people don’t realize rags can start a fire without an ignition source.
“It generates its own heat. When it breaks down, it creates its own ignition source,” he said.
The fire broke out just before 6 p.m. Monday. A crowd of onlookers gathered as more than two dozen firefighters from several communities fought the fire from the roof, inside the Cape-style home and from the ground.
The fire was first reported by Lt. Jim Archibald, an off-duty firefighter who lives nearby.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.