Fire and Burn from Heating Flammable Solvent with a Heat Gun

Key Instruction Points

  • Flammable liquids should be handled in a fume hood to prevent accumulation of vapors. Heat guns and other equipment capable of igniting flammable vapors should not be used to heat flammable vapors.

  • Heating operations should not be carried out by hand. Instead, a lab stand and clamps should be used for this type of work.  

  • Carbon dioxide extinguishers should be used around sensitive equipment. Dry powder extinguishers can damage such equipment.
  • If clothing is on fire, smother the flame by rolling on the ground or use a safety shower to extinguish the fire, as was done in this incident.  

A laboratory worker was using a heat gun to heat approximately 0.5 liters of heptane in a Pyrex beaker by hand over an open bench. A splash of heptane came in contact with the elements of the heat gun, igniting the heptane and causing him to toss the beaker away from him. The sleeve of the worker's shirt caught fire. The flaming beaker landed on another work surface, spreading the fire to his computer. The worker immediately used a safety shower to put out the fire on his clothing, then used a dry chemical fire extinguisher to put out the other fire. 

The worker received burns to his hand. The computer containing his thesis was destroyed by the powder from the extinguisher.