following is the text from a July 15th ABC Channel 7 News Story
in San Francisco
her for link to news story
At The Pump?
July 15 There's been a surge
in flash fires at service stations across the country — very dangerous
and very preventable. What's even more startling is that women
are most often the victims of these gas pump fires.
You'll start seeing new warning signs
during the coming months about an increase in fires at service
stations. But you should know right now — once you've started
pumping gas, do not get back inside your car. Here's why.
The gas pump fires strike without
warning and sometimes with deadly force. Watch the upper left-hand
corner of this surveillance tape.
A woman burned to death in a fire
in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Gas Clerk: "We need 911, there's
a fire outside, the pumps are exploding!"
A gas pump fire near Las Vegas badly
injured a nine year-old girl and another woman had the surprise
of her life at a San Francisco gas station just a few weeks ago.
Michelle Blanch: "I see a spark
travel into the entrance of the gas tank and all of a sudden I
see like a burst of flames, like a basketball-sized burst of flames."
These three gas pump fires, and perhaps
a thousand more across the country each year, are being blamed
on static electricity — the same thing that shocks you when you
walk across the carpet and touch a door knob.
In 78 percent of the static fire
cases tracked by the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEIT), women
are the victims. That's because they are more likely than men
to starting pumping gas and then go back inside the car.
Bob Renkes, PEIT: "Women seem
to be more prone to get back in their car to stay warm, to return
a credit card to the purse, to get money, maybe to be caregiver
to children inside."
As they slide across the seat, they
generate static electricity and they may carry that charge back
to the nozzle.
Stephen Fowler: "When they touch
that area of nozzle, they have a static discharge that can be
thousands of volts. It would not be uncommon for that to be thirty,
forty, fifty thousand volts."
The spark may ignite the cloud of
gas vapor that forms around the nozzle. In a case from Tucson
in March, you can see the victim running from his burning car.
No precise records are kept about how often this happens, but
the experts believe static electricity may be responsible for
as many as 1,000 fires at gas pumps each year.
Americans fill their tanks safely
more than 15 billion times a year. So your chance of becoming
the victim of a static fire is very small, and there are some
simple ways to totally eliminate your risk.
Do not get back in your car after you've begun pumping gas. But
if you do, make sure you get rid of any static charge before you
touch the nozzle again.
You should touch your car before
touching the nozzle. That will discharge any static electricity
you've built up in your body.
Dennis DeCota heads one of California's leading service station
trade groups. He is urging owners to install new warning signs
and he's calling for a new ordinance to prohibit people from getting
back inside their cars while refueling. DeCota says it just makes
Dennis DeCota: "But what's one
life worth? You know if we can prevent it by education of the
consumer on proper fueling techniques I think we've done a great
service to the public."
Michelle Blanch doesn't need another
warning after her close call at the station in San Francisco.
Michelle Blanch: "I'm very,
very cautious. I never leave the pump anymore to go inside the
car. I just stand out there and I won't even let go of the handle
of the pump anymore just so it's continuous, one continuous process."
And that's a good idea.
The I-Team has obtained a very telling
e-mail about static fires from Chevron's refinery in Richmond.
An analyst tells employees to warn their family and friends, quote
"Especially those who have kids in the car with them while
pumping gas. If this were to happen to them, they may not be able
to get the children out in time."
Perhaps it's time that Chevron and
the other oil companies put out such a strong warning to all their
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