1. #1
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    Dec 2009

    Default Can exploding aerosol cans cause secondary fires?

    I'm a student looking for information from the collective firefighter community on aerosol cans spreading fire. I've heard plenty of stories and watched several interesting youtube videos, but I would like information regarding an actual date and place of a fire where an aerosol can is said to have spread fire to other portions of a structure, or to a vehicle. Documentation of this event in an investigation report would also be a plus.....I would of course do all the money exchanging and loop jumping in order to obtain official copies.

    I am aware of the Kmart fire in Falls Township, PA back in '82 and the NFPA report mentioning "rocketing aerosol cans". I know of a couple others, also, but I am more looking for smaller fires that didn't get widespread media coverage......I am sure that with all of the fires that have taken place over the years, this phenomenon has been observed and reported by witnesses, making it into an investigation report.

    If you have some information about a fire in your area that involved flaming aerosol cans, send me the info by PM or just post publicly here. Thanks.

  2. #2
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    FWDbuff's Avatar
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    Jul 2003


    Quote Originally Posted by jscoyle View Post
    am aware of the Kmart fire in Falls Township, PA back in '82 and the NFPA report mentioning "rocketing aerosol cans".
    Pardon the pun, but there's a blast from the past! I was only 9 years old but me and my pop went over to see it.....WOW! Our volly company made the fireground detail a day or two later.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

  3. #3
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    Dec 2007



    Not sure why you are interested in this information. But below is a small section from FM, a large insurance company test data from ONE pallet load of a level 3 aerosol(such as spray paint when the propellent and contents are flammable) . You can down load the complete 47 page document for free here. It has a lot of technical data from a fire protection point of view on sprinkler design, room construction, etc. etc. NFPA 30B also covers the same topic, see below.

    This type of fire would be difficult to fight, take a look at the ceiling temperatures and comment on visibility in the 1st few minutes of the fire. This was with a sprinkler system operating!


    FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 7-31

    Tests on Level 3 products resulted in high heat release rates and rocketing cans with trailing fires. These products produced copious quantities of dense black smoke. Visibility during tests was often completely obscured after only four or five minutes. A single pallet load of a Level 3 aerosol in a 30 ft (9.1 m) high test bay with a 40°F (4°C) flash point opened 36 high temperature sprinkler heads discharging at a density of 0.30 gpm/ft2 (12 mm/min). Ceiling temperatures reached 1900°F (1040°C) and exceeded 1000°F (540°C) for one minute.
    Consumption of the aerosols caused the eventual reduction in ceiling temperatures. Burning material was spread by rocketing cans and insoluble burning liquid floating on the sprinkler water.

    The following if from NFPA 30 B

    E.1 Fire and Explosion Incidents.
    Approximately one-third of
    the incidents involving aerosol products are fires that have
    occurred in warehouses. These facilities have included manufacturing
    warehouses, distribution warehouses, and public
    warehouses. The average loss was $1,220,000, but this does not
    include the two largest recorded losses, which together totaled
    $150,000,000. About 15 percent of the losses involved the disposal
    of aerosol products, either by incineration or by shredding
    and compacting. These incidents incurred an average loss of
    $150,000. Fires occur less frequently in this occupancy category.
    The largest explosion incident resulted in $1,000,000 in damage.
    Repair facilities account for another 15 percent of the losses, the
    average loss being $375,000. Eight percent of the losses occurred
    in aerosol-filling operations; these are evenly split between fires
    and explosions. Fire damage in these cases ranged from negligible
    to $250,000. Explosions in filling operations also show a
    wide damage range, although the largest caused $11,000,000 in

    This is how you can download FREE NFPA codes

    Last edited by InsuranceLCRep; 12-06-2009 at 09:15 PM.
    Fire Sprinklers Save Firefighters’ Lives Too!

  4. #4
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    Dec 2009


    Great info. Much appreciated.

    Does anyone have any specific info on a Paterson NJ fire on 12/1/1997 at a recycling plant involving exploding aerosols? The following link from the NYT doesn't provide a ton of detail.


    From another article it appears that this was only an ignited aerosol cloud, but not for sure.

    Last edited by jscoyle; 12-07-2009 at 08:52 PM.

  5. #5
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    Dickey's Avatar
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    Feb 2000


    We had a vehicle fire a few years ago now that had a can of hair spray in the trunk that accelerated the fire. The fire was in the passenger compartment and as it worked back towards the truck, the can vented and bounced around the trunk spraying fire all over. The fire had burned through the back seats causing the can to ignite.

    I can get you dates and times if you wish, give me a chance to look it up.
    Jason Knecht
    Township Fire Dept., Inc.
    Eau Claire, WI

    IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine

  6. #6
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    DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Aug 2000
    Somewhere between genius and insanity!


    The question was...
    Can exploding aerosol cans cause secondary fires?
    The answer is..

    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  7. #7
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    Jul 1999
    Flanders, NJ


    Gonz, I think the answer is actually..."Yes, but...".

    It will depend heavily on the type of can, type of propellant and the type of contents. While it is scientifically possible for it to happen, one should not jump to conclusions based on possibilities. A competent and thorough fire investigator should be able to determine whether this actually occurred.

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