Valpo Cleaners Catches Fire

Clothing rack motor causes fire at Valparaiso cleaners

Officials from multiple state and federal agencies have determined that last week’s fire at a Valparaiso, Indiana dry cleaners shop was caused by an electric motor.

This was a cleaning rack motor, overheated from extended use, highlighting the importance of regular maintenance for motors in retail industries whose proprietors aren’t familiar with their functions.

Safety issues are exposed in the surveillance video that captured the fire. Officials said the video can be very instructional for safety purposes in the future. Those at the scene over the past week included the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Indiana State Fire Marshal; and the Valparaiso Fire Department, who were the first response team following the initial emergency. Collectively, the groups determined that an “internal failure” of the motor ignited a flammable combination of racked clothing and plastic material.

Bystanders and plaza employees said they heard a loud boom like an explosion and even felt the building shake shortly after the fire started, the Chicago Tribune reported. Fire department division chief John Kroll told the Tribune that noise was caused by the sound of the several hundred pounds of steel racks laden with clothes at the dry cleaner crashing to the floor. The surveillance video (which is not accessible to the public at this time) shows clothes catching fire in rapid succession.

After completing a preliminary report on the incident last Friday, Kroll said he expects a full report to be done in two to three months.

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