NFPA has compiled statistics on structure fires in storage properties.1 There were an average of 22,900 fires in storage occupancies for the period from 1994 – 1998. The leading cause of these fires was intentional fire setting (arson). No big surprise there.

Other top fire causes include:

  • open flame, embers or torches, which includes hot work activities such as welding and cutting;
  • electrical distribution equipment such as fixed wiring, transformers, and circuit breakers;
  • Chemical reactions between incompatible chemicals have also been known to ignite warehouse fires.

Not surprised yet? How about this?

The biggest risk in your warehouse might be one of your lift trucks. Both the Kmart-19822 and Sherwin-Williams-19873 fires were started when flammable vapors came into contact with hot forklift truck engine components.

In another incident, a propane-powered lift truck operating in a warehouse for a flock manufacturing plant caught fire when a fuel system fitting came loose.4 The operator jumped off of the truck and watched it roll into a storage array containing baled flock and rags, which then ignited.

It is clear that effective preventive maintenance on industrial trucks coupled with proper training and certification of operators can minimize the probably of a fire. A fire has about an even chance of starting from a malfunction in a battery-powered lift truck as a propane-powered one.

If you are interested in learning tips for preventing lift truck fires in your warehouse, check out our white paper, Six Ways to Prevent Your Lift Trucks from Starting a Fire today!!

1Ahrens, Marty,  NFPA Fire Analysis and Research Division, “Selections From the U.S. Fire Problem Overview Report – Leading Causes and Other Patterns and Trends – Storage Properties Excluding Dwelling Garage”, June 2003, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA

2NFPA Fire Investigations Report, “Storage Fire (KMart), Fall Township, PA, June 21, 1982,” National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA

3NFPA Investigation Report, “Flammable Liquid Warehouse Fire, Dayton, Ohio, May 27, 1987,” National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA

4NFPA Fire Journal, “Textile Storage”, March/April, 1989, p. 23, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.