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Black Mountain, North Carolina Van Fire


November 28, 2002
Jennifer Hazen, Editor (Posted March 9,2003)

A 1995 Ford Van sustained $13,000 damage (total loss) and the Texaco Gas Station sustained $40,000 damage in another static ignited refueling fire. The owner of the 1995 Ford van, Michael Talbert advised Gary Bartlett, CFI, that he had driven about 195 miles from Whispering Pines N.C. and stopped at the Roadrunner Texaco in Back Mountain, NC for fuel. Mr. Talbert stated that after he exited the vehicle the first time even before he started refueling, he felt a shock as he touched the fuel door of the vehicle. He then used a credit card at the pump to start the transaction.

After starting the fuel dispensing, Talbert then returned to sit in the vehicle due to the cold weather. As he was sitting in the vehicle he turned on the ignition switch and watched as the tank filled. As soon as the gauge reached the "full" indication, Mr. Talbert shut off the ignition and opened the driver side door returning to the fill nozzle. He said that as soon as he touched the nozzle he felt another shock and a fireball flashed around the filler neck. Mr. Talbert stated that he thought he may have pulled the hose from the filler neck and dropped it, however he was not sure if he removed it. The filler hose was found on the concrete drive by investigators.

The fire burned Mr. Talbert on his face and singed his hair. He retreated to the south and around to the passenger side of the vehicle to get his wife and two children out of the vehicle. Both of his daughters and wife were able to escape the burning vehicle without injury.

Mr. Talbert pumped $35.00 worth of fuel into the vehicle. He was wearing blue jeans, a cotton blend sweatshirt and tennis shoes.

The manager of the Texaco station said that she did not remember whether she had hit the emergency stop button when the fire occurred. She stated that she ran from the store exiting the rear of the building. To the ESD Journal, this sounds like the other cases where the attendant was not trained to stop the flow of gasoline to the fire. Where is the training?

At the time of the fire we were under a cold dry air mass with the temperature at 24 F and the relative humidity was at 60 %. The investigator states that these are the right conditions for the presence of static electricity. We agree.


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