Car explodes as smoking driver uses hand sanitiser

Driver suffered minor burns but car totally destroyed in fire

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
@graemekmassie
Friday 14 May 2021 19:50
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Rockville Pike car fire ignited by hand sanitizer and lit cigarette

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A car exploded and was destroyed by flames when the driver used hand sanitiser while smoking.

Fire officials in Maryland say the motorist’s’ cigarette ignited the sanitiser, which in turn set the whole car alight.

The dramatic incident took place at the Federal Plaza Shopping Center in Rockville, just outside Washington DC.

“Using hand sanitiser and smoking a cigarette is a bad combo in unventilated areas like a car,” said a Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer after the blaze.

The driver was taken to hospital with minor burns but the injuries were not considered life-threatening.

However, their car was completely destroyed by the fire, which was captured from above in dramatic footage by a news helicopter.

The personal hygiene product, which people have used heavily during the pandemic, is highly flammable as it is made up of a large amount of alcohol, around 60 per cent ethanol or 70 per cent isopropanol.

Last September a woman in Texas suffered serious burns when the hand sanitiser she had put on caught fire as she lit a candle.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fires caused by hand sanitisers are very uncommon but they do recognise the flammability dangers posed by the product.

“[Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitiser] contains ethyl alcohol, which readily evaporates at room temperature into an ignitable vapor, and is considered a flammable liquid,” states CDC guidance.

“Although the incidence of fires related to ABHS is very low, it is vital that ABHS is stored safely.”

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