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Fowler Associates Labs



Static Fire Stories Articles & Technical Papers Current News

Michigan Gas Station Fire - 2 Year Old Boy Saved 

Jennifer Hazen
July 07, 2002

SPRING LAKE, Michigan – Friday a 2 year old boy was saved just in time during a refueling fire at the Spring Lake Shell Mini-Mart station ,728 E. Savidge, Spring Lake, MI.

When Skip Lorimer of Spring Lake decided to leave his sleeping 2-year-old son, Griffin, strapped inside his vehicle he has no idea the near disaster that awaited him.  Mr. Lorimer went inside to pay for the gasoline he had just pumped into his boat, which he was towing. As he waited in line and looked out the window, a white sport utility, which had parked next to his vehicle suddenly exploded into flames.

Mr. Lortimer yelled, 'Oh, my God. My son's still inside the truck.”  He ran outside to try to rescue his son.  Lorimer was able to pull his frightened son from his Ford Expedition as flame quickly engulfed the white sport utility vehicle and the refueling area around him.  He carried Griffin rapidly away from the quickly spreading inferno.

The fire severely damaged the overhead canopy, which had been recently renovated.  It forced the closure of Savidge Street for about an hour and destroyed a 2001 GMC Yukon sport utility. Mr. Lortimer’s boat sustained some surface damage on the right side before it was pulled away.

The shutoff switch was activated keeping the fire from being a worse disaster.

The utility vehicle owner, Jeff Richter of Grandville, had just filled a large (approx 30-gallon)  wheeled gasoline container in the back of the truck.  As he removed the nozzle flames erupted out of the filler hole. The fire spread rapidly through the GMC Yukon and up to the canopy. The plastic container quickly melted and burning gasoline spilled on the ground as well as in the vehicle, fueling the inferno. The vehicle's rear tires exploded.  The shock absorbers and air bags also went off.

Richter’s friend, Ron Berkins of Hudsonville, sustained minor burns to his arm when the sport utility exploded into flames.

Plastic gasoline containers are especially prone to static electricity. All containers, he said, should be placed on the ground before being filled and never should be left inside a vehicle or the bed of a pickup truck. This is a difficult thing to do when the volume of the container is 30 gallons.  We at the ESD Journal do not believe that such large plastic containers are safe unless they are properly grounded and made of static dissipative materials.  Even then, the person who is refueling must go slowly or enough static charge may build up to cause an ignitable spark to occur when the fuel level approaches the grounded nozzle just prior to cut-off.

Please see our Refueling Fire Series and be careful out there.  Refueling is not a safe act!

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