WILTSHIRE fire service is examining unexplained fires on the suspicion they may have been caused by towels covered in essential oils.

Fire officers are concerned that incidents in laundrettes, salons and homes could have the same cause.

Group manager Julian Parsons, from the service’s technical fire safety department, said: “We’ve seen fires in tumble dryers, linen baskets and airing cupboards where towels that have had oil on them have caught alight.

“The problem seems to arise when the wash cycle has been at a cool temperature. It is now common to have washes sometimes as low as 15 degrees Celsius.

“When the wash has been at 40 degrees or above, the oil residue is more likely to be safely broken down by the washing detergents.”

Essential oils, which are easily combustible, are increasingly used in aromatherapy and other complementary treatments.

The issue came to light when a beauty therapy room at Swindon College was badly damaged in April after a blaze broke out in a pile of towels.