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Combustion of oily rags caused 3-alarm fire at Lexington home, officials say

Firefighters struck three alarms on a fire in Lexington early Friday.
Firefighters struck three alarms on a fire in Lexington early Friday.Burlington Fire

Two Lexington police officers were treated for smoke inhalation after rescuing a family and their pets from a burning Lexington home early Friday caused by a the combustion of oily rags, according to officials.

First responders received a report of a fire on 90 Maple St. in Lexington around 4 a.m. Friday from a neighbor who described “flames shooting out of the windows,” Lexington police said in a statement.

The cause of the fire was determined to be improper disposal of oily rags, according to a statement from the state fire marshal’s office. The fire caused at least $500,000 in damages, the statement said.

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The rags spontaneously combusted in a dumpster outside the garage that contained empty linseed oil cans, wood, paper, cardboard, and other trash according to the statement.

“Many people are not aware that oil-soaked rags can generate their own heat and start a fire, especially when mixed with other items that can easily ignite,” Lexington Fire Chief Derek S. Sencabaugh said. “It is important to lay them flat to dry, preferably outdoors, then dispose of them properly.”

Two officers arrived on the scene within a minute of being dispatched, the statement said. The officers rushed into the home and made contact with the residents, who were asleep, helping to safely evacuate them and their pets, according to the statement.

Lexington firefighters arrived shortly after the residents were evacuated and struck three alarms on the fire, eventually extinguishing it with assistance from other area fire departments, the statement said.

The police officers were transported to an area hospital for smoke inhalation while six firefighters were treated for minor injuries at the scene, according to the statement.

Cambridge, Burlington, Concord, and Newton firefighters provided aid, according to tweets from the respective departments.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, officials said.

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Charlie McKenna can be reached at charlie.mckenna@globe.com.