Car Bursts Into Flames As Driver Uses Hand Sanitizer While Smoking Cigarette

On Thursday afternoon, one Maryland man found himself suddenly surrounded by flames when his 2000 Toyota Camry caught fire. As it turns out, using hand sanitizer while smoking a lit cigarette can be a dangerous combination.

The driver, a 66-year-old male, was successfully able to escape the vehicle in time.

Around 5:30 p.m., the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) responded to the parking lot of a Trader Joe's and Silver Diner in Rockville, Chief Spokesperson Pete Piringer told Newsweek.

Shortly after the initial call, Piringer tweeted out multiple images and videos of the scene. In one of them, recorded from a helicopter, the black Toyota Camry can be seen covered in red-hot flames as black smoke fills the sky. Soon after, a fire engine arrives and firefighters rush to extinguish the blaze.

"ICYMI (~530p) vehicle fire at Federal Plaza, 12200blk Rockville Pike, near Trader Joe's & Silver Diner,@mcfrs PE723, M723, AT723 & FM722 were on the scene (news helicopter video)," he wrote.

ICYMI (~530p) vehicle fire at Federal Plaza, 12200blk Rockville Pike, near Trader Joe’s & Silver Diner, @mcfrs PE723, M723, AT723 & FM722 were on scene (news helicopter video)

— Pete Piringer (@mcfrsPIO) May 13, 2021

MCFRS fire investigators interviewed the driver, who was the only occupant of the vehicle, after transporting him to the hospital.

"He stated that he had just finished grocery shopping," Piringer told Newsweek. "Upon entering his 2000 Toyota Camry to leave the parking lot, he filled his hands with a copious amount of hand sanitizer and while working the sanitizer into his hands, embers fell from the cigarette in his mouth, igniting the sanitizer and then his clothing."

Onlookers called 911 as the blaze soon took hold of his vehicle.

"The patient suffered from 1st and 2nd-degree burns on his hands and inner thighs but was otherwise uninjured and fully alert," Piringer said. The state of the destroyed car was later shared by Piringer on Twitter.

"Using hand sanitizer & smoking a cigarette, which is a bad combo in an unventilated area like a car," part of his tweet read.

"The damage to the car was significant and a total loss," he told Newsweek.

(5/13 ~530p) Rockville Pike, Federal Plaza shopping Center, vehicle fire; Cause, Driver using hand sanitizer & smoking a cigarette, which is a bad combo in unventilated area like a car; total loss; @MCFRS_EMIHS treated & transported 1 adult w/ minor burns, NLT

— Pete Piringer (@mcfrsPIO) May 13, 2021

Hand sanitizer has become something of a hot topic within the past few years. The beginning of the coronavirus pandemic saw major shortages of sanitizer, along with other cleaning products, and it has since become a staple of everyday life.

After a few cases of car catching fires, however, a debate began over the safety of keeping alcohol-based hand sanitizing products in hot cars. In June 2020, the FDA identified almost 200 hand sanitizers that had toxic chemicals. Last month, the FDA marked 21 hand sanitizers with high levels of cancer-causing chemicals and, just yesterday, hand sanitizers were recalled over risks of menthol poisoning.

Car Burns As Driver Uses Hans Sanitizer
A 2000 Toyota Camry caught fire in the parking lot of the Trader Joe’s & Silver Diner in the Federal Plaza (Right). Screen-captured from a video shared on Twitter by Piringer (Left). Pete Piringer/ Chief Spokesperson for Montgomery County MD Fire & Rescue Service