Today in fire history: Storage facility fire destroys causes over $100 million property loss

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Jun 21, 2011

FIFallsTownship On June 21, 1982, K Mart's 1.2 million distribution center in Falls Township, PA, was totally destroyed. The fire was accidental, and started when a carton of carburetor and choke cleaner fell to the ground from pallet storage. The fall caused one or more cans to rupture, spraying liquid around in the area of a forklift truck.  Most likely, the electrical powered lift truck ignited the flammable liquid vapor.  The fire protection system of the building was overwhelmed, due to the large amount of flammable liquids stored in the warehouse, including 580,000 cans of petroleum distillate-based aerosols, and 480,000 cans of alcohol-based aerosols. 

According to NFPA's investigation, the distribution center was a well-run facility with effective fire prevention measures in effect and (with few exceptions) standard fire protection features.  The failure of fire wall opening protection and the storage of large quantities of petroleum-liquid-based aerosol containers that were not isolated from the general merchandise storage are considered to be major factors that resulted in the total destruction of the warehouse.

NFPA members can download the full fire investigation as well as two articles about this incident that appeared in Fire Journal

All visitors can access the executive summary of NFPA's report "Warehouse Fires, Excluding Cold Storage", which contains statistical analysis of the storage facility fire problem, and a fact sheet about fires in these properties, members can download the full report.

-Ben Evarts