Peoria Heights, IL – Sprinkler system activated for fire at bakery

After sanding and finishing a set of stairs at Trefzger’s Bakery, owners Jeff and Martha Huebner tossed their oil-stained socks into a trash can and went home Sunday afternoon.

Hours later, the socks burst aflame, sparking a fire that caused as much as $250,000 in losses at the business, 4416 N. Prospect Road.

“The socks just started on fire by spontaneous combustion,” Jeff Huebner said. “It was just one of those weird things that we never would have imagined would happen.”

In their stocking feet Sunday afternoon, he and his wife used linseed oil to finish a set of worn stairs on the first floor of the two-story structure. When the job was done, they realized their socks were ruined.

“We just tossed them into the garbage and didn’t think anything of it,” he said.

But late Sunday, with the building unoccupied, the oily socks ignited inside the otherwise empty plastic can, said Peoria Heights Fire Chief Greg Walters. He said that oils like linseed oil, if compressed — such as within a clump of cloth materials, like socks — will heat up and catch the cloth on fire.

That is what occurred inside the Trefzger’s trash can, which melted next to cake-preparation table. A bag inside the can burned and melted, with embers falling onto cardboard boxes under the table. The boxes then caught fire, triggering a fire alarm and Trefzger’s sprinkler system just before 11:30 p.m.

As firefighters responded, Peoria Heights police spotted flames on the first floor of the building. Firefighters arrived to find the fire at the prep table, Walters said.

A crew stretched water lines inside to extinguish the fire, containing the fire damage to that area. The sprinkler system also helped slow the spread of the fire, Walters said. Assisting were firefighters from Peoria, West Peoria and Chillicothe, while Limestone Township firefighters provided back-up coverage.

Walters said that the structure sustained no damage from the actual fire. However, smoke and water damage is extensive, he said. The total loss — including cleanup, plus potential lost revenue and wages — is estimated between $100,000 and $250,000, Walters said.

After contacting his insurer, Jeff Huebner said the business will be closed for a couple of days while a cleanup service — already on the scene Monday morning — put the place back in working order. At the end of the cleanup, the Peoria City/County Health Department will examine the business to clear it for operations again.

On Oct. 13, 2016, Trefzger’s Bakery completed its nine-block move north on Prospect Road and opened for business inside a renovated, 121-year-old former bicycle factory.

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