Spontaneous combustion of tortilla chips?

This story, out of Austin, TX, is about a tortilla-chip maker that had changed it handling of waste chips had the ‘pile’ of old chips (stored behind the office) burst into flames. Apparently as firefighters (AFD Facebook statement) were putting out the burning boxes, others not on/in fire were lighting themselves in as f-fighters watched! Three days later, same thing again with the spontaneous flames of boxes of old chips that were left from last fire. :smack: This time, AFD soaked everything left there.

Why the start of combustion??? Things I know and understand, fwiw: corn silos going boom because of high dust levels and a spark, and a substance’s actual temp for combustion (etc). But what is going on here?

It’s apparently not the tortilla chips themselves.* according to the Newsweek story, the waste chips were subjected to some new, undisclosed (at least by Newsweek) treatment process that “didn’t work out so well”. So your Doritos in your home cupboard are probably fine, and you can go on vacation without worrying that your junk food will burn your house down.


Don’t know what the process used was. Now I’m curious to find out.

*Although there IS a hot sauce called “Spontaneous Combustion” – https://www.basspro.com/shop/en/southwest-specialty-foods-spontaneous-combustion-spicy-hot-sauce

I’m going to go for “New! Linseed Flavor!”

You know how a poorly constructed, poorly maintained compost pile can catch fire if conditions are right?

I would imagine a pile of oily tortilla chips is at least as good a candidate for spontaneous combustion as a pile of oily rags.

Chips are flammable enough to use as a fire starter. It’s a trick i learned camping.

Mulch can burst into flames from the build up of heat from biotic action. Add some oil to the mix and you’ve got something highly flammable.

From the article (https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/safetyinformation/fire/fireinthehome/FireintheHomeFactsheets/DFES-Home-Fire-Safety-Info-Note-Spontaneous-Combustion.pdf)

So I’m guessing that fried tortilla chips count as a “thin layer on a porous surface”, and they were all sitting around in 95F/35C temps outdoors on July 12, so probably a perfect storm for spontaneous combustion.

Frito-Lay is always trying new flavors in the summertime. Maybe this was the new kerosene and thermite flavor.

Mental Floss took a look at the flammability of Doritos a few years ago during their first test of internet “life hacks”. They burned a lot better than expected.

If you want to see a Dorito fire out of control, it’s at about the 9:40 mark in this video:

Doritos have different spices and such than regular tortilla chips, but I would expect regular tortilla chips to be just as combustible.

Rags soaked with oil or other chemicals like paint thinner can spontaneously combust (see bump’s link). I agree that it’s probably something similar with tortillas.