Risk Insights: Incidental Tire Storage and Fire Safety

Risk Insights: Incidental Tire Storage and Fire Safety

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Risk Insights header image A wide range of organizations—including car dealerships, mechanics, auto body shops, gas stations and numerous retailers—keep tires stored at their commercial properties.

However, such storage can result in serious fire hazards. Specifically, the rubber material typically found in tires can be extremely dangerous and damaging in the event of a fire. Although this material is slower to ignite, it can burn rapidly and emit high heat once a fire starts—making the flames difficult to extinguish.

What’s more, tire fires often release large amounts of oil and toxic smoke throughout the surrounding area, thus polluting nearby waterways and air. That being said, tire fires not only have the potential to cause severe property damage, but can also threaten the environmental safety of entire communities. In some cases, tire fires can even force neighborhoods to issue temporary evacuations until conditions improve.

Don’t let tire fires wreak havoc on your organization. Consider these tire storage precautions to help minimize fire risks at your property. Keep in mind that this guidance applies to incidental tire storage, meaning that such storage is not the main purpose of the commercial property and the storage area does not exceed 2,000 square feet. Nonincidental tire storage—which is usually utilized within vehicle part distribution centers and recycling facilities— may require additional precautions.

Incidental Tire Storage Precautions

Here are some general tire storage tips to promote fire safety at your property:

  • Select an appropriate location. First, make sure you choose a safe and secure location for storing your tires. This location should provide proper ventilation and protect tires from damage due to excess heat or moisture. Further, this location should contain minimal flammable or combustible materials that could promote the start of a fire.
  • Adopt an effective layout. Once you’ve selected an appropriate location, it’s critical to develop a safe tire storage layout, usually through the use of sturdy tire racks. Although tires can be stacked directly on the ground, doing so could damage the tires and increase the risk of tire stack instability (and subsequent collapse). Tire racks should not be placed too close together or allow for tires to be stacked at excessive heights—otherwise, a fire could spread more easily between tires and cause greater damages. Maximum dimensions for tire racks, suggested tire-stacking heights and the recommended amount of clearance between each tire rack varies based on the unique characteristics of your storage location.
  • Stay organized. To supplement an effective tire storage layout, it’s also vital to keep your storage location clear of any clutter or obstructions. A disorganized storage area will only increase fire hazards, as well as make it difficult for the fire department to access the area and extinguish the flames if a fire occurs. With this in mind, be sure to maintain an effective housekeeping regimen.
  • Restrict high-risk activities. To eliminate unnecessary tire fire exposures, make sure that any hot work tasks (e.g., welding, cutting and burning) or activities that entail the presence of an open flame (e.g., smoking) are prohibited near the tire storage area. These rules should be enforced with adequate signage and workplace supervision.
  • Ensure adequate disposal. After tires have been scrapped, they shouldn’t remain in your storage area for long. Keeping these tires on your property for an extended period can lead to additional fire risks and pest concerns. It’s best to have these tires removed from your property in a timely manner and properly disposed of by a reputable, qualified company.

Apart from these tips, be sure to review both state and local fire protection regulations and building codes for specific tire storage requirements relevant to your community.

NFPA Considerations

In addition to the aforementioned precautions, it’s important to be aware of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards related to tire storage. Under NFPA 13, a number of tire storage factors (e.g., how tires are stacked and storage area dimensions) must be considered when determining an appropriate sprinkler system design for a commercial property. NFPA 13 also requires an adequate amount of clearance between tires and sprinkler heads (36 inches), roof structures (39 inches) and nearby heaters (36 inches).

In addition, under NFPA 1, the volume of tires stored at a commercial property can require the building to be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system. Further, various tire rack characteristics (e.g., rack material, height and capacity) could require the property to implement an in-rack sprinkler system. Due to the severity of tire fires, NFPA 1 also requires that any tire storage area designed to hold a significant volume of tires be separated from other areas of the attached commercial property by a four-hour fire wall. Such walls can temporarily block flames from spreading to other areas of a property during a fire—minimizing the resulting damages.

For more risk management guidance, contact us today.

This Risk Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2021 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.


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