Fire officials concerned about flammable material used in colored powder

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NAPLES, Fla.- Fire officials are raising concerns about events that use a colored powder made of cornstarch after a recent deadly explosion.

The powder is often used in the popular color runs held throughout Southwest Florida.

“Three things that you need for any fire is heat, fuel, and oxygen and you have plenty of fuel right here,” said Chief Stephen McInerny.

During an exclusive experiment with WINK News, City of Naples firefighters put the facts to the test, using empty bottles and fire extinguishers.

“Here it’s an unlabeled material, no specifications. This is the way it was shipped,” said McInerny. “Once this is atomized in the air, thrown in the air, you create a atmosphere of condition, environmental condition that can result in rapid burning as you’ve witnessed here.”

McInerny tells WINK News anyone who doubts the dangers of the powder should just watch video of the experiment. Similar powder ignited a huge explosion at a Taiwan water park.

“What you saw in Taiwan is an eye-opener,” said McInerny. “Whether that was pyrotechnics, or whether it was a high-intensity lamp used at a concert venue. But it went up and that was a fire that engulfed 498 people instantaneously, running and screaming for their lives and burned over 80 to 90 percent of their bodies. I wouldn’t mess around with this powder.”

Closer to home, McInerny’s concern is now for events like color runs.

TJ Nopkowski is a coordinator for Collier Color Healthy Run.

“Our color that we use is made in the USA, it’s biodegradable. It’s got a zero reactivity hazard as well as a zero flammability hazard but with anything, there are risks associated with fire,” said Nopkowski. “So for the time being, we’re planning on continuing as normal and we’re just going to adhere to all the safety guidelines that we already do.”

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