A dryer fire Tuesday morning above East by Southwest and the Golden Triangle means the popular downtown restaurants will be closed for about a month.
“The Durango Fire Protection District contained it really fast in the dryer,” said Hydi Verduzco, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Sergio. “We’re thankful there were no injuries, but there was extensive smoke damage in both restaurants.”
The fire was apparently caused by greasy rags in the dryer.
DFPD Fire Marshal Karola Hanks said detergent, even strong detergent, does not completely break down the saturated fat in the grease on rags, a fact discovered in a study done in Glasgow, Scotland.
“Even if they were using water at 190 degrees, when most of us heat it to 115 to 125 degrees, it wouldn’t do it,” she said. “They will still have about 25 percent of the saturated fat left in. Add the heat of the dryer, and that accelerates the reaction. Because they usually do the washing at the end of the day and go home, that heat never has a chance to dissipate.”
That seems to be what happened in the East by Southwest fire, she said.
“The dryer had been turned off when everyone left Monday,” Verduzco said, “and the combustion happened sometime during the night.”
Hanks has been with the DFPD since 2007, and this is the fifth fire of this type she’s seen and the second this year.
“The best scenario is either to have the rags professionally washed or to buy a washer designed to do this,” she said. “After they’re dried in a commercial dryer, they immediately need to take them out to air out and cycle off the heat, so it can’t be done at the end of the day.”
Verduzco said insurance will cover lost wages for employees for as long as two months, but she hopes East by Southwest will be open by the beginning of December.
“We’ve been here for 13 years, and we know how much people enjoy the restaurants,” Verduzco said. “We know it’s an inconvenience to customers, but look for the relaunch party.”