Do Fire Stations Ever Catch Fire?

iStock
iStock

Of course, the answer is of course. Life is just ironic that way. What is surprising, however, is how many stations have gone up in smoke, and how often it happens. In 2009, for instance, a firefighter in Japan, in haste, left the stove on while cooking dinner in the firehouse on the way out to fight a blaze. Ten fire trucks from other, nearby stations, had to put out the firehouse fire.

Closer to home, also in 2009, a fire broke out in a Capitol Heights, Maryland fire station. This one started in a fire truck engine. When an initial automatic fire alarm was sounded, volunteer firefighters on duty at the time foolishly canceled it. Five minutes later, they were on the phone with dispatch requesting backup. Eight minutes after that, firefighters from a nearby station were on the scene, putting out the blaze.

That same year, and also in Maryland (Largo, to be exact), the Bladensburg fire station caught fire when wiring inside the ladder truck went up in smoke. Illinois has had a few fire station fires as well. In Elwood on August 26, 1995, a fire station caught fire and burned to the ground. And in Fillmore, a tiny community southeast of Springfield, another fire station caught fire and burned to the ground.

On July 7, 2009, the Strattanville Volunteer Fire Department in Pennsylvania was alerted to a roof fire at its own station. The cause? Arson! When the two guys who started the fire were caught and brought into the police station, one of them said he lit his boxer shorts on fire and then threw them onto the roof of the fire station, adding that he "thought it would be funny" if the fire station caught fire.

Of course, there's nothing funny about any of these fires, but it does make you think. And ask other questions, like: who delivers the mail to a post office?

What Does 'State of Emergency' Really Mean?

Firefighters battle a state of emergency.
Firefighters battle a state of emergency.
Phonix_a/iStock via Getty Images

Local and state officials across the U.S. are declaring states of emergency in their efforts to manage the coronavirus pandemic. Some entire countries, including Italy and Japan, have also declared a state of emergency. But what does this phrase really entail?

Local and State Response

The answer varies a bit from state to state. Essentially, declaring a state of emergency gives the governor and his or her emergency management team a bit of extra latitude to deal with a situation quickly and with maximum coordination. Most of these powers are straightforward: The governor can close state offices, deploy the National Guard and other emergency responders, and make evacuation recommendations.

Other powers are specific to a certain situation. For example, in a blizzard, a governor can impose travel restrictions to clear roads for snowplows and other emergency vehicles.

Calling in the Feds

If a disaster is so severe that state and local governments don’t have the cash or the logistical ability to adequately respond, the governor can ask for a declaration of a federal emergency. In this case, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does a preliminary damage assessment to help determine whether the governor should petition the president for a federal emergency declaration.

When the declaration from the president comes through, state and local governments can get funding and logistical help from the feds. What makes a crisis a federal emergency? The list is pretty broad, but FEMA shares some criteria here.

Why Does Hand Sanitizer Have an Expiration Date?

Hand sanitizer does expire. Here's why.
Hand sanitizer does expire. Here's why.
galitskaya/iStock via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has turned hand sanitizer from something that was once idly tossed into cars and drawers into a bit of a national obsession. Shortages persist, and people are trying to make their own, often to little avail. (DIY sanitizer may not be sterile or contain the proper concentration of ingredients.)

If you do manage to get your hands on a bottle of Purell or other name-brand sanitizer, you may notice it typically has an expiration date. Can it really go “bad” and be rendered less effective?

The short answer: yes. Hand sanitizer is typically made up of at least 60 percent alcohol, which is enough to provide germicidal benefit when applied to your hands. According to Insider, that crucial percentage of alcohol can be affected over time once it begins to evaporate after the bottle has been opened. As the volume is reduced, so is the effectiveness of the solution.

Though there’s no hard rule on how long it takes a bottle of sanitizer to lose alcohol content, manufacturers usually set the expiration date three years from the time of production. (Because the product is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, it has to have an expiration date.)

Let's assume you’ve found a bottle of old and forgotten sanitizer in your house somewhere. It expired in 2018. Should you still use it? It’s not ideal, but if you have no other options, even a reduced amount of alcohol will still have some germ-fighting effectiveness. If it’s never been opened, you’re in better shape, as more of the alcohol will have remained.

Remember that sanitizer of any potency is best left to times when soap and water isn’t available. Consider it a bridge until you’re able to get your hands under a faucet. There’s no substitution for a good scrub.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER