Talk FURIE Headlines And Issues

Fire Dept. warns about leaving hand sanitizer in your car on a warm day, sparking controversy

By Nick Viviani |

OCONOMOWOC, Wis. (WMTV) — An Oconomowoc fire department’s warning about the dangers of leaving hand sanitizer in their vehicles on a hot day. However, the post and similar ones have also drawn criticism over whether or not the risk actually exists.

In a post showing a burned-out car door, the Western Lakes Fire District explains most hand sanitizers are alcohol-based, making them flammable.

“Keeping it in your car during hot weather, exposing it to sun, and particularly being next to open flame while smoking in vehicles or grilling while enjoying this weekend can lead to disaster,” the post read.

“Please respect the possibilities and be fire safe,” the fire department urges.

The fire district also warned of the risks of leaving clear water bottles in cars on a warm day.

In the post, the fire department including links to more information about flammable hand sanitizer and even a video on the subject.

Following the nationwide coverage of the post and the response it elicited, the fire department has since rewritten much of the post, addressing some of the criticisms, while maintaining the core message is important.

“Our message quickly came became misconstrued and we wanted to assure that we made it right,” it continued. “We apologize for any confusion and wish you an enjoyable holiday weekend.”

The Controversy

As reports on the original post spread across social media, including a story on NBC15, questions about the validity of the claim started to arise.

The Poynter Institute of Media Studies reported similar warnings arose in Thailand and spread to Costa Rica and Brazil.

The image used in the Thai post, Poynter reported, matched the one used by the fire department. The school’s article cited an AFP Thailand story which attributed the fire to two Saudis setting their door ablaze with an aerosol can and a lighter.

A further study, Poynter noted, found hand sanitizer would need to reach a temperature of approximately 300 degrees to combust, while vehicles, which can get hot enough to injure or kill people and animals, could only reach 160 degrees.

WLFD stands by the warning

In a response to a commenter following its original post, the fire department appeared to acknowledge the image was meant to be representative, writing “It’s a fire in a door panel. We frequently see the same issues and level of damage from smoking in vehicles.”

The updated WLFD post followed up on that point, explaining the image was not from an actual incident of hand sanitizer catching fire and that it was only meant to illustrate what a general door fire.

“While we never made the claim that the photo utilized was from our district or from an exploding container of hand sanitizer, it has become clear that that inference and speculation made is seem as though it was,” the fire department wrote.

Although, in the original comment thread and in the revised post, the department defended the overall message. It pointed to the links included in its original post (included above).

In a response to the point about how hot a vehicle would need to get to ignite the sanitizer, the department replied that the interior would not need to reach 300 degrees. It stated that light focused through the clear plastic container could, in fact, raise the temperature inside the bottle well above the car’s interior.

“This is the difference we are talking about,” one of its responses said. “Clear water bottles have been known to focus light to the point that they boil the water and explode. It’s also possible when other substances are heated to extreme temperatures.”

The department added that such an instance would be more likely in the summer because greater sunshine means hotter cars.

The new post also addressed concerns about how hand sanitizer can ignite when exposed to flame. The fire department stated that, with the greater use of sanitizer, its goal was remind people that is possible.

“With the recent increase in utilization of this product we wanted to remind our customers that it’s important not to allow this to occur,” the post read. “We simply want our customers to be happy healthy and well and most importantly enjoy the time they have together with family and friends.”

CUNY Faculty On Verge of Wildcat Strike

After several hundred adjuncts were laid off at John Jay College, CUNY faculty — rank and file members of the PSC — have organized a wildcat strike to withhold spring grades.

On Monday, May 18, rank and file union members at the City University of New York (CUNY) launched a grade strike campaign to demand the reinstatement of all non-reappointed adjuncts and part-time staff at the university. This action comes just one week after the devastating news that almost 40 percent of the teaching faculty at John Jay College are slated to be terminated after their spring appointments are completed. In addition to the cuts at John Jay, other CUNY colleges, including City College and Brooklyn College, have signaled that academic departments should be prepared to preemptively cut their teaching budgets by 25 percent. Meanwhile the administration has asked presidents at some campuses to dismiss all part-time department assistants (members of the DC-37 union), college laboratory technicians, and higher education officers.

These cuts — which could leave hundreds or even thousands of adjuncts and staff without health insurance in the middle of a pandemic — are being proposed by the administration in anticipation of what they claim will be unprecedented budget deficits in the fall. However, there is not yet any indication from Governor Andrew Cuomo or Mayor Bill de Blasio that the CUNY budget will actually be cut, and the question of whether or not fall enrollments will decrease is still uncertain.

As Nicodemus Nicoludis, an adjunct faculty member at BMCC put it: “the fact that they are willing to enact these cuts without any direction from the state is both worrying and telling about where their loyalties lie. They are telling us that when push comes to shove, they are willing to slash and burn the most vulnerable employees to save their own positions.”

In response, members of the group Rank and File Action (RAFA) organized an online town hall to discuss ways of resisting these layoffs. More than 120 CUNY faculty, staff, and students were on the call and out of that discussion came the proposal for a grade strike pledge to put pressure on the administration to reinstate all laid-off faculty. The pledge has since been shared with several thousand faculty members across the university and has already been signed by more than 200  faculty teaching upwards of 400 sections. Signers are pledging to withhold grades until at least the last day that they can be submitted, but are further committing to continue withholding them longer if the pledge is signed by 70 percent or more of the teaching faculty. Though reaching 70 percent is unlikely, activists say that even without reaching that threshold, the pledge is still an important first step toward building a more radical action in the short term to defeat layoffs. “At some point we’re going to have to strike,” said adjunct lecturer and RAFA member, Carol Lang. And this sentiment is widely shared by many RAFA activists as well as the many hundreds of fed-up adjuncts facing layoffs.

Toronto renters are now staging protests outside the mansions of their landlords

Apartment tenants who’ve been threatened with eviction for not having enough money to pay rent amid a global pandemic continue to organize in Toronto (and beyond) as part of the #KeepYourRent movement — and their most-recent IRL action hit landlords closer to home than ever.

Parkdale Organize, the legal advocacy organization spearheading these local rent strike campaigns, described how GTA tenants “descended” upon the homes of their corporate landlords last week to “collectively voice their demands for no evictions and for rent forgiveness for all tenants unable to pay during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Tenants from buildings in Scarborough, Mississauga and Parkdale are said to have visited the sprawling mansions of CEOs from major real estate enterprises such as Pinedale Properties and Starlight Investments on Wednesday during a virtual annual general meeting of the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO).


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