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Static Fire Destroys Tucson Man's Car

by Jennifer Hazen

Tucson March 7, 2002:

Robert Tenney, 80, was treated at St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson, Arizona for first- and second-degree burns on his shoulder, buttock and leg. The car, a 1994 Geo Tracker, was destroyed in the fire as was the dispensing pump. The canopy over the refueling island also sustained damage.

Investigators are reviewing a surveillance video of the area at the am/pm market and gasoline station at South Park Avenue and East Benson Highway, said Tucson Fire Battalion Chief Randy Ogden. In the video, Mr. Tenney can be seen running from the car with his hand and arm on fire. We hope to bring a streaming segment of this video soon.

The fire was reported by Assistant Fire Chief Dan Larkin, who was driving by the convenience store and saw the flames.

Mr. Tenney was seen on the video to start the refueling process. He then went to the driver's side of the car and sat down in the driver's seat. He was filling out a log book which he kept in the car. When the nozzle clicked off after about 7-8 gallons, Mr. Tenney is seen to get out of the car with his log book in his hand and go back to the nozzle area where he stood for a few seconds before he reached down to take the nozzle out. Mr. Tenney stated that he did not "top off" the fuel tank.

As he was pulling the nozzle out of the car, the fuel port area ignited. Within a short time after the initial ignition, a flame trail was observed on the video on the ground behind the vehicle.

The weather conditions at the time of the incident were 70 degrees F, 7% RH.

This fire seems to be the typical "re-entry" type. Mr. Tenney charged himself after he started the refueling process. When he touched the nozzle, he discharged in the fuel vapor rich area of the fuel port on his car. If he had touched anything metal before the nozzle, he would not have caused the fire. This warning needs to be obvious on all gasoline pumps.


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