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Static Spark Probable Cause of
Texas Cargo Van Fire

Mesquite, Texas

A static spark is believed to have ignited a fire, which totaled a cargo van owned by an unidentified carpet cleaning company. Ten fire department units responded to the incident.

Officials with the Mesquite Fire Department said the driver was filling a portable gas container while the container was sitting in the vehicle. When portable containers rub against carpet in a car, or plastic in a pickup truck bedliner, it can create a static spark that can ignite gasoline vapors, officials said.

A video recorded by cameras at the Exxon gas station on Peachtree Road shows the driver, who is inside the van when the fire breaks out, escaping without injuries. The video also shows that the fire starts in a flash and in seconds jumps from the van and threatens nearby gas pumps. No serious injuries were reported. The gas station was evacuated.

A Saturn Ion that was parked directly behind the van received some soot damage and cars in several other bays were evacuated when the fire erupted.

The gas station's pumps were shut down immediately, so the fire could not spread, said fire department spokesman Mark Noble. The gas container was located in between the front driver's and passenger's seats. The fire began in the cab of the van, Noble said.

"Most of the danger was lowered when the pumps were shut off." Noble said. "That's why it is the law that you have to turn your car off while pumping gas."

Damage to the gas station, which included an awning and a light fixture and the pump, was estimated at $15,000.

The cargo van, including carpet cleaning equipment, was a complete loss, Noble said. An estimated value of the van and its contents was not available.

Firefighters said the safest place to fill a portable gas container is on the ground.

October, 2006






"He was very lucky. He was in the vehicle when the fire started and he was just able to back away in time," said Mark Noble of the Mesquite Fire Department. "You could easily be killed by a fire like that."


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