Jan 2023

Idle Pallet Fire Exposure

On Monday, October 24, 2022, a fire spread quickly through the yard of a commercial building in Monrovia, CA. By the time the fire department arrived, the fire had ignited approximately half of the yard storage and jumped a clear space of about 15 ft. to storage near a neighboring building. The responding fire department required mutual aid from a nearby department to extinguish this fire. A loss report detailing the total loss was not available yet, but thermal damage is expected to be significant near the fire. Nonthermal damage (smoke and water) may be significant, damaging most of the stock inside this electronics and home décor retailer.

The images below show the moment that the fire department arrived on scene.

A disaster was avoided in Monrovia by two responding fire departments. Another yard fire occurred nearby approximately 13 months earlier in Carson, CA. It was September 30, 2021 when another yard fire threatened a distribution center. The responding fire department has an ISO rating of 2, but limiting this disaster was credited to quick-thinking employees who closed the metal rolling doors near the idle pallet storage in the yard.

In Carson, a neighboring building was ignited resulting in damage to the corner of the building. The photos below show the size of this yard storage fire.

Pallet storage guidelines

Significant numbers of idle pallets were observed in the yards of both of these buildings, and they are found throughout many of our client’s facilities on manufacturing floors, at the ends of rack aisles, in storage racks and in the yard. Idle pallets provide ideal conditions for a fire; they are relatively easy to ignite and offer ample airflow and surface area. Fortunately, both NFPA and FM Global Standards provide guidelines for both indoor and outdoor idle pallet storage.

Storing pallets outside:

For the storage of idle pallets outside, NFPA 1, Fire Code (2021) and FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet (FMDS) 8-24, Idle Pallets provide separation distances from buildings and adjacent yard storage. Both sets of guidelines have different options for exposed walls and are both valid. Data Sheet 8-24 also has options for wood/FM Approved pallets and plastic pallets. The stack height of idle pallets is also addressed in both standards, but NFPA 1 call for a minimum separation distance of 0.75 times the stack height to important buildings.

Storing pallets inside:

NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems (2022) and FMDS 8-24 should be used when idle pallets are stored inside. Limiting the stack heights and providing separation distances in manufacturing areas and other areas is one option to not require protection specifically for the idle pallets. The recommended/required stack heights are 5 or 6 ft., and the separation distances are either 10 ft. of clear space per FMDS 8-24 or 8 ft. of clear space/25 ft. of commodity per NFPA 13. The protection options in both standards are comparable and vary depending on the type of pallet, storage arrangement and building.

Guidelines are important, but they aren’t all encompassing. Risk Logic engineers can assess the exposures threatening your business and provide recommendations to mitigate the loss potential and improve your property risk profile. If NFPA codes are not enforced by the authority having jurisdiction in your area, even if the fire department inspects the site, idle pallets may be exposing your facility. Contact Risk Logic today for a complete property loss prevention risk assessment.