On June 27, 2015 there was a fire at a Taiwanese water park that resulted when colored cornstarch was spayed over a crowd of about 1000 young people attending a concert. It accidentally ignited into a 10 second inferno which burned 500. Eleven have since died and 117 remain in intensive care units in dozens of hospitals located around the country.
The combustible dust being used at “Color Run” type events is commonly colored cornstarch, which isn’t normally combustible, but it can burn or explode if the particles are the right size and in the right concentration in the presence of an ignition source. Possible ignition sources include open flames and sparks, electrical equipment, hot surfaces, smoking and static electricity.
There are four elements needed for a flash fire/dust explosion:
• Combustible Powder/Dust
• Oxygen (Air)
• Ignition Source
• Dispersion of dust into a cloud above the minimum explosion concentration (MEC)
Most of these events generate sufficient colored powder and cloud dispersion in the presence of air to create a fire hazard, yet few fires such as the one in Taiwan occur.
The missing element is often the ignition source. The key to preventing these incidents relies on:
- Eliminating ignition sources
- Reducing dust clouds to concentrations below the minimum explosive concentration (MEC)
Other safety considerations:
Do not use electrical devices to distribute the powder
Ensure that the powder has been tested safe for public use
Require a gap between stages and the public
Smoking prohibited in the discharge area
Watch the Taiwan incident video HERE
OSFM Bulletin on Colored Powders March 2016: OSFM16-001_-_colored_powder_event_safety_advisory