Black taxi door bursts into flames due to stored sanitiser says vehicle recovery firm

Image credit: Mems Taxi Recovery Service

Hand sanitiser stored in the door of a London black cab burst into flames according to a vehicle recovery firm based in the capital.

Mems Taxi Recovery Service posted images of a fire damaged taxi on social media. One image showed the internal damage caused. A burnt out hole in the TX4 door, blackened window and damage to the driver's seat were all visible.

A second image appeared to show fire damage on the outside of the cab allegedly caused by the sanitiser.

A spokesperson from the capital’s taxi recovery firm said via social media: “Hi everyone, please do not put anything with hand sanitiser or gel, like phone or battery some how (they) catch fire. Just keep them separate please. They’re highly flammable.”

Following widespread news coverage at the start of the pandemic claiming that hand sanitiser kept in vehicles can pose a fire risk, the National Fire Chiefs Council had refuted these reports and in June confirmed there had been no cases of such fires in the UK.

NHS Property Services issued a warning about what it considered to be the dangers of keeping sanitisers in vehicles to its front line staff. They have since retracted this advice following further evidence.

In June NHS Property Services stated: "This decision to raise awareness across colleagues was made in good faith. It is now our understanding that the risks associated with hand sanitisers in vehicles only become apparent when in contact with a spark. We will be issuing a formal alert to our frontline teams to clarify this situation.”

The four main things that you need to bear in mind:

  • The possibility of alcohol-based hand sanitiser gels causing fire in vehicles is very low.  

  • The alcohol in the sanitiser would need to be open to the air in order to evaporate, if the container was sealed it is unlikely that alcohol would escape into the atmosphere.

  • The boiling points of the materials in hand sanitiser would need very high temperatures inside a vehicle to vaporise these common alcohol products.

  • The vapours would need to reach a Lower Explosive Limit in order to form an ignitable mixture; this would result in a “flash” when ignited rather than produce a sustained fire likely to ignite combustible materials.

The driver of the taxi is said to be safe. According to Mems Taxi Recovery, the driver was said to be a “bit shocked”.

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