Car ignites when driver uses hand sanitizer while smoking cigarette, Maryland video shows

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A car burst into flames after a Maryland driver used hand sanitizer while smoking a cigarette, officials said.

Smoke billowed into the air after the fire spread through the vehicle on Thursday evening, according to WJLA video shared by the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. The footage shows firefighters unfurl a hose as they race to extinguish the blaze outside Federal Plaza shopping center, near Washington, D.C.

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Officials said the harrowing moments unfolded after the car’s driver left a store.

“Investigators say after shopping & in a car a man filled his hands w/ copious amount of hand sanitizer,” fire department spokesperson Pete Piringer wrote on Twitter. “While working sanitizer into his hands, embers fell from cigarette in his mouth, igniting sanitizer & some clothing.”

The car was a “total loss,” and one person received treatment for minor injuries, officials said.

Photos of the aftermath show a scorched car with the windows burned out and front seats reduced to metal.

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Officials said using hand sanitizer while smoking is a “bad combo in unventilated area like a car.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to be cautious around alcohol-based sanitizers. The substance has “ethyl alcohol, which readily evaporates at room temperature into an ignitable vapor, and is considered a flammable liquid,” according to health officials.

To protect yourself, experts say it’s safest to smoke outside and keep ignition sources away from hand sanitizer.

During the pandemic, the CDC has recommended everyone wash their hands and use sanitizers to help protect against COVID-19. While the virus mainly is thought to spread through particles that are released from an infected person’s body and then inhaled or land in a person’s mouth, eyes or nose, they may also land on surfaces that people touch.

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