September 30th, 2021
A massive fire broke out in the yard storage area of a commercial building in Carson, Los Angeles, in the early afternoon of the 30th of September 2021. According to media reports, the property is a distribution centre, and the yard storage consisted primarily of stacked pallets, but also other combustible material such as crates and stacks of cardboard. It is not clear if all the pallets were empty. According to some reports, some of the pallets and crates contained rubbing alcohol wipes. The pallet construction material is not known.
All employees of the building were evacuated. Three firefighters were injured, with two being treated on site and the third being admitted to hospital. There were no other injuries. Local residents were advised to stay indoors due to the large amounts of thick smoke given off by the fire, which was brought control around 5PM the same day. According to fire services, the area the size of “two football pitches was destroyed” which included at least one trailer and also damage to several surrounding buildings. No damage estimates are available. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
Combustible yard storage can significantly expose a property to a fire hazard. Idle storage of pallets in particular, constitute a severe fire hazard, maximizing the heat release rate from an otherwise wood slat fire, due the construction of pallets and the configuration in which they are store, i.e., stacked on top of each other. Further exacerbating the fire hazard is if the pallets are made of plastic.
While pallets themselves not high value, they can expose construction and equipment which are. Therefore, the best way to mitigate the risks is to store idle pallets and other yard storage a safe distance away from buildings and important equipment. What a “safe distance” is would depend on the type of storage, building construction, exposed area and other factors.