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Aerosol Propellant (propane/ butane) Fire

Tire Inflator Explosion
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Tire Inflator Fire

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Michael Fox, PhD.

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Aerosol Propellant (propane/ butane) Fire - Tire Inflator - California

A California woman and two teenage girls were badly burned when an aerosol tire inflator product may have ignited inside the back of a station wagon they were driving. There were no fatalities, but one of the teenage girls was severely burned and incurred over $1.0 million in medical expenses. The station wagon was completely destroyed by the fire and the surface of the aerosol container was burned and corroded to the point that product identification was completely removed. 

Aerosol Propellant (propane/butane) Fire - Tire Inflator

The station wagon was completely destroyed by the fire and the surface of the aerosol container was burned and corroded to the point that product identification was completely removed. 

The immediate technical issue in this case was to identify the specific tire inflator product that was inside the aerosol container. The approach involved forensic paint analyses as well as forensic chemical analyses of the product residue inside the aerosol container.  This involved the use of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDAX).  Other issues included the cause of the container's release of propellant (via rim vent release) and subsequent ignition, warning label, alternative propellants, and alternative aerosol containers.

Dr. Fox is also a Certified Fire & Explosion Investigator who is also an aerosol expert. He made presentations at national societies on the fire and explosion hazards associated with aerosols and has published several peer-reviewed, scientific papers on the failure of aerosols.