car on fire
Jade Small
Jade Small
May 25, 2021 ·  3 min read

Car goes up in flames when driver smoking cigarette uses hand sanitizer

Everyone has their moments, especially while driving. There’s a lot to consider these days, and knowing when to wear a mask or use hand sanitizer isn’t always as easy or straightforward as it seems. As a driver smoking a cigarette found out, their car wasn’t the best place to light up while using hand sanitizer. In Rockville, Maryland, a 66-year-old man set his 2000 Toyota Camry ablaze by mistake when the hand sanitizer he was using ignited. He had just returned to his vehicle from grocery shopping when he accidentally set the fire. Thanks to his quick reaction, he escaped before the vehicle was completely engulfed in flames. Witnesses immediately called emergency services, who responded quickly to the scene to attend to the driver’s injuries. [1]

A driver smoking a cigarette burned their car completely.
Image: Pete Piringer @mcfrsPIO/Twitter

He barely escaped with his life

The incident occurred on Thursday, May 13th. At around 5:30 PM, a Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service response team arrived at the Rockville parking lot. The Chief Spokesperson for the MCFRS, Pete Piringer, posted images and videos on Twitter soon after they got the call about the fire. In one video, captured via helicopter, the black Toyota Camry is covered with flames that filled the sky with smoke. A fire truck arrives in the parking lot shortly after, with firefighters responding quickly to extinguish the flames. The Camry’s owner was promptly rushed to the hospital to treat the burns he sustained from the fire.[2]

Firefighters prepare to extinguish the flames (left) Close up of the damage after driver smoking a cigarette set his car on fire (right)
Images: Pete Piringer @mcfrsPIO/Twitter

The situation was under control

Piringer explained that the driver “stated that he had just finished grocery shopping.” He said that “upon entering his 2000 Toyota Camry to leave the parking lot, he filled his hands with a copious amount of hand sanitizer.” Piringer continued, saying, “while working the sanitizer into his hands, embers fell from the cigarette in his mouth, igniting the sanitizer and then his clothing.” He later revealed that “the patient suffered from 1st and 2nd-degree burns on his hands and inner thighs but was otherwise uninjured and fully alert.” When he tweeted later he said the driver was, “using hand sanitizer & smoking a cigarette.” Which Piringer felt “is a bad combo in an unventilated area like a car.” He then admitted that “the damage to the car was significant and a total loss.” [1]

Pete Piringer, Newsweek/Twitter
A driver smoking a cigarette barely escaped with their life.
Image: Pete Piringer @mcfrsPIO/Twitter

Is Santizer Safe?

Since the pandemic began, stories about hand sanitizer have made it into the news one way or another. In the infancy of the COVID-19 outbreak, there were sanitizer shortages worldwide. However, sanitizer has now become a symbol of our post-pandemic everyday life. Keeping flammable hand sanitizer products in cars has become controversial, especially after other cases like this one where cars have caught fire and caused injuries. However, it should be noted that hand sanitizer will not combust and catch fire in a hot car, as it needs something to ignite it (i.e., ambers from a driver smoking a cigarette). When used properly and safely, hand sanitizer works well and is of minimal risk. For information on how to safely select and use hand sanitizer, check out the CDC website.

Keep Reading: Nose ring blamed for life-threatening infection that ‘killed’ woman’s liver


  1. Car goes up in flames when driver smoking cigarette uses hand sanitizer.abc7. May 15, 2021
  2. Car Bursts Into Flames As Driver Uses Hand Sanitizer While Smoking Cigarette.” Newsweek. May 14, 2021