and Gas Pump Fires
By: Constance Harness
Todd C. Frankel, of Charleston Daily
Mail (email@example.com), reported on the danger static
elecrticity presents at the gas pump.
On November 3, 1999, Robert Sexton
and his wife Emma had dinner at the Ponderosa restaurant in Huntington.
They then dropped their newborn daughter Brittney by a relative's
house and took U.S. 60 toward Lincoln County to visit Emma's parents.
They stopped for gas on the way at SuperAmerica station just out
of Huntington. Robert inserted the pump nozzle into his white Toyota
Camry; and, because it was chilly, locked the nozzle in the open
position and jumped back into the car. In his side-view mirror,
he saw a woman waving her arms. The gasoline was overflowing from
the tank. He jumped out of the car and reached for the nozzle.
He sparked a fire and was ignited when he simply touched
the gas pump nozzle. He was not smoking. The engine was off. He
was not using his cell phone. He received third-degree burns
on 20 percent of his body, mostly his legs and arms. He spent two
weeks in the burn unit at Cabell Huntington Hospital and another
two months out of work. The state fire marshal's office concluded
that the fire was likely caused by static electricity.
Static electricity is usually not dangerous
but when combined with gasoline vapors at the fuel tank opening,
a small spark can cause a fiery explosion. The public remains almost
entirely unaware that this may occur. Gas stations have been
reluctant to post signs at the pumps warning that static electricity
can ignite gasoline vapors. Speedway (formerly known as SuperAmerica)
gas stations are the exception; they post signs which read: "Static
Electricity Spark Explosion Hazard. Do Not Get Back Into Your Vehicle
While Refueling. Re-entry Could Cause Static Electricity Build Up."
The German Society for Petroleum
and Coal Science and Technology concluded in their comprehensive
1997study that: "When persons leave their vehicles' seats, they
can become electrostatically charged and remain charged for some
time. Electrical discharge by individuals in proximity to escaping
fuel vapors can create a hazard."
In Broken Bow, Nebraska, on January
3, 2000, a man suddenly caught fire while refueling his Ford F-150
pickup. Luckily, he suffered only minor injuries. The fire started
when he reached to remove the nozzle from his pickup. He noticed
a spark fly from his hand to the nozzle.
For the complete report by Todd C.
Frankel, please see the full article at:
Graphics provided free by: