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Kenosha Restaurant Fire May Have Been Caused by Deep-Fried Batter

July 14, 2019 8:55p

(WGTD/WPR)---Could it have been food ingredients igniting on their own that started a fire last month that heavily damaged a popular sushi restaurant in Kenosha? As far-fetched as it sounds, that’s exactly what may have happened.

Fire Chief Charles Leipzig confirmed over the weekend that deep-fried tempura flakes—used to add crunch to some sushi rolls—may have ignited as the mixture sat untended while the restaurant was closed for business.

Two fires at restaurants in Madison have been blamed on this. "A lot of people know of this phenemenon of spontaneous combustion," said Madison Fire Department investigator Kara Nelson. "What we don't know readily is that it can happen with this food product."

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that the process involves deep-frying batter, putting the mixture through a colander and letting it rest for hours. The problem is that when it's packed together, the heat generated from the process can build overnight, to the point that the crunchy, cooked batter can spontaneously ignite.

Nelson tells restaurant operators to start preparing the ingredient in the morning so if problems arise someone will notice.

Kenosha Chief Leipzig says he can’t say for sure just yet that the process in question started the June 23rd fire at Soon’s Sushi Café at 2100 54th Street, but indications are pointing in that direction. He says he’s waiting for some lab results.

The fire caused about $100,000 in damage.