Driver escapes gas pump fire, static electricity may be to blame - FOX Carolina 21

Driver escapes gas pump fire, static electricity may be to blame

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Static electricity is being blamed for causing a fire at a gas station in Powhatan. Now, officials want to make sure you're being careful at the pump.

Kristin Price says after gassing up Thursday, she reached for the nozzle.

"I pulled the gas nozzle out of the tank and it just lit on fire in my hand," said Price. "I was kind of dumb founded."

Luckily, Price wasn't burned and a clerk stopped the fire from spreading by using the station's emergency shut off system, which immediately turned off the gas pumps.

This isn't the first time a fire like this has happened in our area, which is why fire officials are urging folks to be vigilant when refueling.

In 2009, a 10-year-old Chesterfield boy was severely burned while he was helping his mother pump gas. Static electricity was the cause of the fire.

"It's not something that happens very often but it's something people need to be aware of especially when it's cold and dry," said AAA spokeswoman Tammy Gobert. 

Before fueling up, turn off your engine. Then get rid of your static electricity by touching a metal surface, like the car door. If a fire does start, leave the nozzle where it is, slowly back away and tell an attendant.

Here are consumer refueling and fuel safety guidelines from the American Petroleum Institute that will help keep you and your family safe when refueling your vehicle:


  • Turn off your vehicle engine. Put your vehicle in park and/or set the emergency brake. Disable or turn off any auxiliary sources of ignition such as a camper or trailer heater, cooking units, or pilot lights.
  • Do not smoke, light matches or lighters while refueling at the pump or when using gasoline anywhere else.
  • Use only the refueling latch provided on the gasoline dispenser nozzle. Never jam the refueling latch on the nozzle open.
  • Do not re-enter your vehicle during refueling. If you cannot avoid re-entering your vehicle, discharge any static build-up BEFORE reaching for the nozzle by touching something metal with a bare hand -- such as the vehicle door -- away from the nozzle.)
  • In the unlikely event a static-caused fire occurs when refueling, leave the nozzle in the fill pipe and back away from the vehicle. Notify the station attendant immediately.

Portable Containers

  • When dispensing gasoline into a container, use only an approved portable container and place it on the ground to avoid a possible static electricity ignition of fuel vapors. Containers should never be filled while inside a vehicle or its trunk, the bed of a pickup truck or the floor of a trailer.
  • When filling a portable container, manually control the nozzle valve throughout the filling process. Fill a portable container slowly to decrease the chance of static electricity buildup and minimize spilling or splattering. Keeps the nozzle in contact with the rim of the container opening while refueling.
  • Fill container no more than 95 percent full to allow for expansion.
  • Place cap tightly on the container after filling - do not use containers that do not seal properly.
  • Only store gasoline in approved containers as required by federal or state authorities. Never store gasoline in glass or any other unapproved container.
  • If gasoline spills on the container, make sure that it has evaporated before you place the container in your vehicle.  Report spills to the attendant.
  • When transporting gasoline in a portable container make sure it is secured against tipping and sliding, and never leave it in direct sunlight or in the trunk of a car.

Additional Safety Guidelines

  • Do not over-fill or top-off your vehicle tank, which can cause gasoline spillage.
  • Never allow children under licensed driving age to operate the pump.
  • Avoid prolonged breathing of gasoline vapors. Use gasoline only in open areas that get plenty of fresh air. Keep your face away from the nozzle or container opening.
  • Never siphon gasoline by mouth nor put gasoline in your mouth for any reason. Gasoline can be harmful or fatal if swallowed. If someone swallows gasoline, do not induce vomiting. Contact a doctor or and emergency medical service provider immediately.
  • Keep gasoline away from your eyes and skin; it may cause irritation. Remove gasoline-soaked clothing immediately.
  • Use gasoline as a motor fuel only. Never use gasoline to wash your hands or as a cleaning solvent

What is more, AAA Mid-Atlantic also recommends that motorists actively monitor the nozzle at all times by keeping their hand on the dispenser and not using the automatic latching device. This will prevent them from driving off with the nozzle in their tank and/or the gas from overflowing if there is a problem with the device etc. This will also ensure that the motorist does not accidentally drive off with the nozzle still in the vehicle.

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