Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on August 9, 2022.

Hidden Hazard

Officials say a warehouse that burned down over the weekend in Oklahoma contained thousands of pallets of hand sanitizer and had no occupancy permits. The incident highlights the importance of the flammable liquid storage guidelines outlined in NFPA 30.


An estimated 1.5 million gallons of hand sanitizer were being stored illegally inside a warehouse that burned down in Chickasha, Oklahoma, on Sunday. Experts say the incident shows the importance of implementing safety measures when storing flammable liquids in large quantities.

“This incident shows the importance of appropriately understanding the hazard of any stored commodity, especially common ones such as hand sanitizer,” said Alexander Ing, an engineer at NFPA. “Many facilities can underestimate the intensity of fire that can result from one pallet of flammable liquid, let alone hundreds of pallets. Any facility storing ignitable liquids needs to be aware of the quantities they are storing, as fire protection measures such as sprinklers or building design will change based on the quantity being stored.” 

‘No heat needed’ 

In April 2020, in response to a surge in demand for disinfecting products like hand sanitizer during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, NFPA released a video warning of the dangers of storing large quantities of hand sanitizer. As Guy Colonna, then director of Engineering Technical Services at NFPA, explains in the video, hand sanitizer solutions are typically around 70 percent ethanol with a flammable liquid flashpoint between 60 and 70 degrees F, which means they begin giving off flammable vapors at room temperature in most cases. If an ignition source, such as a flame, is then introduced and oxygen is present, fires can start. 

“They don’t need any external heat source to cause them to give off those vapors,” Colonna says. “Once those vapors concentrate in those right proportions … then the only thing that’s missing in order to make them ignitable is a viable ignition source.” 

It’s unclear what that ignition source was in the recent Oklahoma fire. The cause of the fire, as well as how 8,000 pallets of hand sanitizer were being stored in a facility with no occupancy permits, will be investigated by the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal’s Office, according to News 9 in Oklahoma City

It took nearly 100 firefighters from 15 different agencies several hours to get the blaze under control. 

“It was roughly a 120,000-foot facility and from our understanding it was pretty much filled halfway up to the ceiling with these alcohol hand sanitizers,” Chickasha Fire Chief Tony Samaniego told News 9. A resident who witnessed the fire described the flames as tall, big, and hot. “I was really in shock that the building was engulfed,” she said.

NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code
, provides safety requirements for storing more than five gallons of a flammable liquid, including hand sanitizer. The code outlines protection measures such as placing the stored materials in a flammable liquids cabinet or in an area protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system. Learn more about the code at

ANGELO VERZONI is associate editor of NFPA Journal. Follow him on Twitter @angelo_verzoni.