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Static Electricity Likely Started Fire That Heavily Damaged Florist Shop

September, 2009

A fire that heavily damaged a florist shop in Santa Clara, California was likely started by someone who was illegally siphoning gas from the shop's delivery van parked just a few feet away from the building, according to a fire marshal.

Investigators determined that the gas cap from the Citti's Florist Shop delivery van had been removed and found remnants of a hose in the gas tank, Santa Clara Fire Marshal Martin Von Raesfeld said.

The blaze started at the van and began spreading upward and outward, fire officials said, and jumped to the building's extended wooden overhang.

"Someone was trying to steal gas and somehow it ignited," Von Raesfeld said.

The fire was likely started by static electricity, Von Raesfeld said. The flowing of liquid into a plastic container creates static electricity, he said, and if someone is holding a plastic container and wearing shoes, the electricity is not grounded. The static electricity can create a spark through contact with metal and easily ignite the vapors, he added.

"It could also be the person was smoking," Von Raesfeld said. "We've seen that happen. The more likely cause would be static electricity."

Investigators unsuccessfully tried to locate possible burn victims at area hospitals, Von Raesfeld said. All evidence was consumed in the fire, he added. The building suffered about $400,000 in damage but was not completely destroyed, Von Raesfeld said.



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