The London Fire Brigade has issued a warning about the dangers of tumble drying and ignoring alarms after a fire partly gutted a Charlotte Place restaurant.

Front of restaurant boarded up.
Part of the basement kitchen at Lantana was damaged by fire but no-one was injured.

Investigators believe the fire within the basement kitchen of the Lantana restaurant on Charlotte Place in Fitzrovia was started by self-heating within tea towels and aprons that had been laundered and folded into a pile before the premises closed for the evening on Wednesday 10 July.

The Brigade was called at 21:39 and the fire was under control by 23:47. Firefighters from Soho, Euston and Paddington fire stations were at the scene.

These types of fires often involve textiles that become contaminated with oil, most commonly linseed, massage and cooking oil on tea towels, tablecloths and chef whites, said the investigators.

“Sometimes when materials are cleaned, put in tumble dryers and then folded and stacked, the heat from the tumble drying cannot escape. This can result in a high enough temperature allowing it to build up to a point where it smoulders and eventually ignites,” said a London Fire Brigade spokesperson who issued fire safety advice.

“If you are washing and then drying on a hot cycle, always use the cooling cycle on the tumble dryer so it cools down and allow the heat to dissipate properly, before stacking laundered items together.”

According to the LFB half of the basement was damaged by fire but no-one was injured.

“A smoke alarm sounded and residents living in flats above the restaurant self evacuated before the Brigade arrived. The restaurant was closed at the time of the incident and no one was in the premises at the time of the fire,” they said.

Soho Watch Manager Glynn Williams who was at the incident said: “On arrival fire crews found the shop window was heavily smoke logged. The restaurant’s automatic fire alarm was sounding. A neighbour initially heard the smoke alarm sounding but dismissed it, eventually the Brigade was called some 40 minutes later.

“A key lesson from this fire is don’t ignore a smoke alarm, especially if it has sounded for some time. The delay in calling 999 meant that the damage to the property was made worse.

“Crews wearing breathing apparatus worked extremely efficiently and professionally to extinguish the fire and prevented it from spreading to other parts of the building. Incidents like this show how important it is to have a working fire alarm, acting on the early warning is imperative to prevent injuries and damage to property. Any delay in calling 999 will inevitably have a negative impact on any business,” he said.

A note on the window of Lantana tells customers that the eat-in part of the restaurant is closed but will open soon. They invite customers to use the take out part of the restaurant or one of their other branches in Shoreditch and London Bridge.