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Gasoline Fires

Aug 11th, 2014 | By | Category: From our latest issue

Editor’s Note: The following article is a more in-depth version of the August issue Tow Times Learning Center topic: Basics of Towing: Gasoline Fires.

Gasoline Fires
By Edward D. Johnson, website

Each year in the United States there are an average 5,000 gas station fires which kill two people and injure forty-eight others, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Of these fires, 61% are caused by motor vehicles. These figures represent a significant decline during the past thirty years but they could be cut more if people were more careful when fueling vehicles. There is a 1 in 17 chance of any station having a fire during a year.


Most fires are caused by static electricity but improved vehicle fueling systems have played a part in reducing the total number of fires during the last 20 years. Although a rumor has persisted that cell phones cause gas station fires, according to the Federal Communication Commission there has never been a substantiated case (as of March 26, 2014). Most fires are caused by negligence such as smoking while fueling or by static electricity.


Preventing a Fire: When fueling your vehicle, always turn the engine off. After you have started fueling, stay close to the hose and fuel filler of your vehicle but not close enough for fuel to spatter onto you. If you need to get into the vehicle during fueling, it is essential that you eliminate static electricity that may have formed on you or your clothing while entering or exiting the vehicle. This is done by touching the metal body of your car before touching the hose or nozzle. Do not allow anyone to smoke anywhere near the pumps during fueling or allow anyone else to assist you during the process.


Portable Containers: Your portable gasoline can should be a metal Type 2 labeled to show that it complies with OSHA and NFPA 30 (National Fire Protection Association) standards. Only red painted cans should be used for gasoline. Blue cans are for kerosene and yellow cans are for diesel fuel. Metal Type 2 cans have two openings. The spring loaded filler cap will shut off automatically if the can is dropped during filling. Inside the filler is a metal screen that blocks static electricity and sparks from entering the can. The second cap is also spring loaded and has a long adjustable metal tube for fueling the disabled vehicle. When the filler tube is placed inside the vehicle filler tube, any sparks will be immediately grounded before you start fueling the car.


Fueling a Disabled Vehicle: The ignition should be off and no one should be near you as you fuel the vehicle. While holding the can, you should tough the metal of the car before inserting the filler tube. Then open the spring loaded cap on the portable container and fuel the car. Once the fueling has been completed, you should allow the spring loaded cap to close and then remove the filler tube from the vehicle.


Gas Pump Filling: When fueling any vehicle, the engine should be off. After you have selected the fuel type on the pump, touch a metal portion of your vehicle before you insert the filler hose. Set the filler lock and step back so fuel cannot spill on you in the event the automatic shutoff does not work fast enough. If the automatic shutoff does not work and fuel starts to come out of the filler of the vehicle, step to the pump and shut off the fuel. Never pull the nozzle out of the filler in an attempt to stop the fueling because gasoline will spill and the risk of a fire will become much greater. If the pump will not shut off, there should be an emergency shutoff switch somewhere near the fuel pumps or inside the store and that is the safest way to stop the fuel from pumping if the procedures described here do not work. This emergency shutoff is required in most states.


Buying a Gasoline Can: A metal can as described in this article will cost about $75. So why should you buy this can rather than a $10 plastic one? In these articles, we try to stress the importance of proper procedures and public safety. A cheap plastic can will do the job, but it does not have the safety features that are found on a metal can. Cutting corners is the major reason why tow companies have accidents and injuries and why they get sued. Using certified equipment, whether chains, wire rope or fuel cans greatly reduces your risk of an accident with injuries and a lawsuit. It is hard to win a case against a tow company that has followed proper procedures. Using equipment designed specifically for the job and using it properly will greatly reduce the chances of an accident and the resulting injuries. You might also want to read this:


OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1926.152(a)(1): Only approved containers and portable tanks shall be used for storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids. Approved safety cans or Department of Transportation approved containers shall be used for the handling and use of flammable liquids in quantities of 5 gallons or less.