I've had some close calls with alcohol, when using it with alcohol stoves.
After reading about Russ's mishap, it started some extra wondering about what is going on with alcohol, and why its behavior and burning patterns are different and surprising at times.
Part of it is that it doesn't spread in the same way as more familiar liquids. It has a strange way of creeping much farther than expected, and getting all over things.
It turns out that artists use alcohol in just this way. When they want a wash of color to spread more quickly and farther (on various types of surfaces), or to penetrate or infiltrate more, they will mix in some alcohol. Supposedly it serves as a surface tension breaker, and helps to make things move and spread out.
It can form a thin film on your skin, and you don't always know it. It can also form a thin film on other surfaces, like the outside of a fuel bottle, or on clothing or nylon. (This happened to me -- and since the flame can be hard to see, especially in daylight, it can be burning away without your knowledge. I watched a bottle of alcohol start to melt before my eyes, seemingly mysteriously, in this way. You couldn't see the flame.)
It spreads or travels a lot faster and farther than one tends to think, invisibly (the thin films aren't as visible as water); and it catches fire very easily.
It also seems to leak down around the lids or openings of certain types of dispensers (certain squirt bottles, for example), without its being obvious that it is doing so. And it gets all over things very easily, in this way and others. It spreads more quickly and easily than water, and moves farther. It seems to spill and spread and get onto things unusually easily, and you don't always know that it has done so. When there are flames around, this can cause problems.
Most people's experiences with alcohols (rubbing alcohols, for example) do not involve flames, and it's easy to become a little too familiar (as if we know them well enough already), and easy or casual with them, and used to them -- and accustomed to an idea or assumption that they are relatively safe, predictable, innocuous liquids that don't cause these types of problems (or don't have some surprising behaviors), and don't warrant some extra care or attention.