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Tempura-like 'crunch' to blame for fires at Madison sushi restaurants

MADISON, Wis. - Madison firefighters believe the technique used to make a tempura-like crunch likely caused separate fires at two sushi restaurants in Madison.

Investigators said the oil used to make the crunch self-heats and spontaneously combusts, which leads to a fire. 

According to a release by the Madison Fire Department, the "crunch" is produced from a water and flour batter, which is deep-fried in cooking oil then placed in a container to drain and cool. Investigators said cooking oils, especially soybean and canola oil, are known to have a propensity to self-heat under certain circumstances. When the "crunch" is placed in a bowl, the ability for heat to dissipate is compromised which can create the perfect conditions for a fire.

Investigators have ruled that to be the cause of the fires at Sumo Steakhouse and Sushi Bar and Takara Japanese Restaurant, according to the release. 

Firefighters responded to a fire at Sumo on April 5 and at Takara on May 10. The fires caused a combined $575,000 in damages for the restaurants.

During their investigation, Madison firefighters identified five other restaurants in Wisconsin, that also sustained fire damage due to this same food preparation technique.
 

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