Fire at Catamount golf course to delay opening of practice facility; fire marshal determines cause of blaze |

Fire at Catamount golf course to delay opening of practice facility; fire marshal determines cause of blaze

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters cut into the side of a golf cart barn at the Catamount Ranch & Club, where flames erupted and caused damage to the structure as well as several golf carts May 10. The spontaneous combustion of rags soaked with stain caused the fire, according to Steamboat Fire Marshal Doug Shaffer. Damages will likely postpone the opening of the golf course’s practice facility.
Courtesy photo/Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A fire inside a golf cart barn at the Catamount Ranch & Club last Friday will likely postpone the opening of the golf course’s practice facility, which was scheduled to open May 24 along with the rest of the course.

Doug Shaffer, a fire marshal with Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, concluded improper storage of stain-soaked rags sparked the fire, which caused significant damage to the fleet of golf carts as well as to all of the practice facility equipment.

Firefighters were called to a report of a structure fire at the Catamount golf course just after 1 a.m. May 10. They found flames inside a corner of the golf cart barn, which had spread to wood trusses in the attic.

Crews from Steamboat and the West Routt Fire Protection District attacked the fire from the interior and exterior of the barn, cutting into the walls and ceiling to douse flames in the attic.

“The guys did a really good job of being able to stop the fire and preventing it from burning the rest of the building down,” Shaffer said. 

The incident highlights the importance of properly storing and disposing of rags soaked in flammable, organic materials like paint and wood stain, which can spontaneously combust in the right conditions. 

“It’s been awhile since we had a fire like this,” Shaffer said. 

How to dispose of paint and stain rags
  • Do not pile or ball rags soaked with oil paint into a tight mass or toss them in the regular trash while they’re still wet.
  • Allow the rags to dry thoroughly before disposal. Spread the rags outdoors, on the ground or on a metal rack until completely dry and somewhat hard. Two full days is usually enough time, but it might take longer.
  • Once the rags are completely dry, they should be safe for disposal. Put them in the trash on collection day. This method allows the oil to fully cure without overheating.
  • If paint rags catch fire outside, extinguish the fire by dousing with water or covering with sand or dirt. Don’t disturb them until you’re sure the fire is out.
  • If paint rags catch fire indoors, call the fire department, get everyone outside, then — and only then — try to put the fire out with an extinguisher. If you cannot put out the fire, get out of the house and wait for the fire department.
  • Don’t try to put out the fire with an extinguisher unless you know how to operate it.

In this case, the rags were left in an open plastic bucket inside the barn. As Shaffer explained, the stain broke down the cotton in the rags, creating heat. Flames can even erupt when kitchen rags accumulate too much vegetable oil.

This process does not occur with synthetic materials, such as petroleum-based products.

Shaffer notices more of these fires during construction season in the summer months, when workers unfamiliar with these materials leave dirty rags in unsafe containers.

“It’s especially dangerous in our climate,” Shaffer said, referring to those summer months when the air gets warmer and drier.

People can take some simple steps to prevent this type of fire. Those include keeping any rags with flammable material in non-flammable places.

“The best thing to do is to put them in a bucket of water, and that will keep this heating from happening,” Shaffer said. 

People also may store the rags inside a metal container with a tight fastening lid to prevent air from getting in or allow them to completely dry out on a metal rack before throwing them away.

Brad Price, general manager at the Catamount golf course, expects the practice facility to open a few days after the rest of the course. Though the fire damaged the fleet of golf carts, the business has arranged to rent a back-up supply of carts throughout the summer.

Price said all other operations should open as scheduled Friday, May 24.

“It was a setback, but we’re going to make it happen,” Price said. 

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