Spontaneous combustion of kitchen towels started Stalzy’s fire

April 9, 2019

Fire investigators have ruled a Sunday night fire at Stalzy’s Deli on Atwood Avenue was caused by the spontaneous combustion of small kitchen towels.

Investigators determined the fire, which originated in the kitchen area, was accidental, Madison fire department spokeswoman Cynthia Schuster said in a statement.

“On Sunday afternoon, deli staff took approximately 50 towels used for cooking and cleaning purposes to a laundromat,” Schuster said.

“They were washed using traditional detergents and then were dried at a high temperature for 60 minutes. The towels were then placed in a wire mesh basket and stored underneath a prep table at the restaurant. The towels never fully cooled down, and hours later they spontaneously ignited.”

The towels still contained residue of cooking oil after being washed with traditional detergents, Schuster said.

The fire spread to nearby products in the kitchen until it was put out by firefighters at 8:40 p.m. The deli was closed at the time and no one was injured.

Damage estimates are still being determined, Schuster said. Insurance company representatives and inspectors with Public Health Madison-Dane County are working to determine which products stored at the deli can be salvaged.

The front window of the eatery at 2701 Atwood Ave., was shattered and there was damage to the interior.

A neighbor reported lots of smoke coming from the front of the restaurant at 8:30 p.m. An alarm in the building also was activated.