Woman Escapes Injury from Gas Station Fire Caused by
"Just a total
fireball, up under the vehicle, around the vehicle."
Skip Ritzman, Lynchburg Fire Department
here to see video
November 26, 2007
Paraphrased by Steve Waldrop
It may be a one in a million chance but
with over eleven billion refuelings in the USA each year,
this means that up to 1000 times per year in the United
States static electricity may ignite the gasoline vapors
One of those 1000 times per year happened last week when
an woman stopped at the Apple Market off Boonsboro Road
in Lynchburg to refuel her pickup truck.
Captain Skip Ritzman, with the Lynchburg Fire Department
said that he would never forget what he saw when he arrived
with the fire truck. "Just a total fireball, up under
the vehicle, around the vehicle," said Ritzman.
The fire started when the driver went back in her car
to get her cell phone. After exiting her truck she touched
the gas pump, there was a shock, and then the truck quickly
caught fire. The fire, caused by static electricity, melted
a gas pump and burned-out the pickup truck.
Apple Market employees, Stephani Kendall and Melissa Erickson
were on duty at the time of the fire and remember what
"I went crazy. I saw the flames and
I couldn't even speak," said Stephanie Kendall.
Erickson said, "The manager, she
went out and shut off the gas pump. We have an emergency
switch outside." She also said that she thought that
everything was going to blow up.
Most vehicle static fires are caused by a person re-entering
the vehicle during refueling to get warm or as in this
case to get a cell phone. When they go back to the nozzle
area they discharge their static in the vapor rich space
around the refueling port and BOOM!
Static electricity is generated by the gasoline being
pumped into a vehicle and you when you get out of the
vehicle. If static charges are allowed to discharge in
the vapor areas a fire can occur. The results are frightening
and may be devastating. Static charges are dangerous.
Everyone needs to be aware of the serious
dangers of static electricity, so be static smart.
Do not allow children to refuel a vehicle or container.
Do not have unsupervised children in the vehicle.
Refuel vehicles slowly until you have a least 1/4 to 1/2
tank full. Refuel all containers slowly.
Refuel containers only on the ground, not in the vehicle.
Keep the nozzle in contact with the container or vehicle
at all times during refueling.
Each time you exit the vehicle or approach the fuel dispensing
pump, discharge your static by touching the metal parts
of the car or pump, away from the nozzle area.
Do not use the auto-latch feature of a nozzle if available.
Stay there with you hand on the nozzle.
Do not get back in the vehicle during refueling.
If a fire occurs during refueling, Never
pull the nozzle out
The car will not explode
Get people out of the vehicle
Tell attendant to shut down the pumps
Get a fire extinguisher
You have time, don't make it worse.
Many of those killed or hurt during refueling fires think
that by pulling the nozzle out they will save themselves,
their vehicle or those around them. Nothing is further
from the truth. The inferno comes from the nozzle coming
out of the vehicle or container and the gasoline being
sprayed around the area.