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Long Beach firefighters battle through heavy smoke at Park Avenue businesses

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Long Beach firefighters faced heavy smoke conditions Thursday night before discovering a fire at an East Park Avenue business.

Firefighters rushed to Key Food supermarket, at 663 E. Park Ave., at 9:56 p.m. after the store’s automatic fire alarm went off.

“Upon arrival, the store was closed and locked,” the Fire Department said on its Facebook page. “From the outside [there was] an odor of burning, and [firefighters] saw what appeared to be smoke in the store surveillance monitor. Entry was forced and a moderate smoke condition was found.”

Officials said that during a search of the building, firefighters discovered more smoke and embers emanating from the second floor in the back of the store, and a hose line was stretched into Key Food.

About 50 Long Beach firefighters responded, Fire Chief Rick DiGiacomo said, and

the department requested additional ladder trucks from the Island Park and Oceanside fire departments.

Ladders were placed on both the roof of Key Food as well as the adjacent Kwik Wash Laundromat and Dry Cleaners, at 657 E. Park Ave. DiGiacomo said that while on the roof of Key Food, firefighters noticed heavy smoke pushed from a vent of the laundromat

“As they were opening up the drop ceiling, they noticed more and more smoke coming out,” DiGiacomo said. “We stretched an attack line as a precaution and as we were investigating, the guys went onto the roof of Key Food. One of the guys noticed smoke coming from a vent at the laundromat.”

Firefighters subsequently entered the building and discovered that contents in a laundry bin were burning in the boiler room. The smoldering contents, the department said, were removed and the fire was quickly extinguished.

“We found a bin of restaurant rags and it was smoldering, which was causing a lot of smoke and seeping in through the vent, out the wall and into the supermarket,” DiGiacomo said.

He added that the rags were soaked with chemicals used to wash the materials and sealed in a plastic bag. The Nassau County Fire Marshal, DiGiacomo explained, said that the rags likely spontaneously combusted due to the chemicals and heat. The fire was not suspicious and was contained to the laundry bin.

“It should be noted that this was not considered a working fire,” the department said.

Key Food sustained some smoke and water damage, but there was no structural damage and no injuries, officials said. The business was open on Friday.

According to the International Marine Contractors Association, spontaneous combustion occurs when a flammable or combustible substance — such as oil or grease in towels — "is slowly heated to its ignition point through oxidation, and many substances will begin to release heat as they oxidise." If the heat has no way to escape, the temperature will rise to a level high enough to ignite the chemicals, according to IMCA.