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Equipment Institute Report on Gasoline Fires Started by Sparks-Truth!
Summary of the eRumor A message said to have
resulted from a conversation with Robert Renkes of The Petroleum
Equipment Institute (PEI) who says there have been more than 150
cases of fires caused by sparks from static electricity igniting gasoline vapors.
The eRumor says it has happened mostly to women, mostly with Dodge
Caravans, and mostly among people who have re-entered their cars
during refueling. The email encourages caution when drivers are filling their tanks
Robert Renkes, the Petroleum Equipment Institute, and a report on
fires started by static electricity are real. The institute
is sponsoring a project called "Stop Static."
Static electricity is the build-up of an electrical charge, such as
around a person, that can be discharged when coming into
contact with the ground or anything connected to the ground, such
as a light switch, an elevator door, or even another person.
When that happens, people feel a "shock" as the
electricity discharges. To minimize the danger of static
sparks igniting gas vapors, the pump nozzles at gas stations
have a wire that "grounds" the nozzles to the
equipment. The Petroleum Equipment Institute says there are
many fires that have been started by flame, cigarettes, or
electrical sparks, but until recently, there had not been much
documentation about fires started by sparks from static
electricity. Further, the fires happened where there was no
open flame, no cigarette, and the pump nozzle was properly
In a report on their website (www.pei.org), the institute says it
has collected data regarding more than 150 fires that they believe
have been started by static sparking. They recommend more
research, but their conclusion is that most of the fires resulted
from a motorist scooting in and out of the car during the
refueling, which caused a build-up of static electricity.
Then when the motorist touched the pump handle or the area around
the gas cap, the spark discharge and ignited the gas vapors.
The "Stop Static" campaign recommends three rules for
making refueling a vehicle safer: 1. Turn off the
engine. 2. Extinguish any cigarette. 3.
Don't get in and out of the car during the refueling.
Some of the other findings in the PEI report include that all of
the fires took place on days of dry weather, usually also cold
weather, and that the drivers mostly wore shoes with rubber
soles. One of the versions of this eRumor says the incidents
happened mostly to women, but there is no information in the
report about that.
The PEI report did not blame any of the fires on cell
phones. Although some gas companies and cell phone manufacturers say cell
phones should not be used at gas stations, there have been no
gasoline fires or explosions that anybody knows of caused by radio
transmissions from cell phones. CLICK
HERE for more details on
last updated 05/11/02
A real example of the eRumor as it has
appeared on the Internet:
I just had an interesting call from Bob Renkes of Petroleum
Institute. Mr. Renkes was calling all the Scherer's in Oran trying
Lisa Scherer - the one whose van burnt at Hucks. The company he
on a campaign to try and make people aware of fires as a result of
at gas pumps. His company has researched 150 cases of these fires.
results were very surprising to me:
1) Out of 150 cases, almost all of them were women.
2) Almost all cases involved the person getting back in their
the nozzle was still pumping gas, when finished and they went back
the nozzle out the fire started, as a result of static.
3) Most had on rubber-soled shoes.
4) Most men never get back in their vehicle until completely
is why they are seldom involved in these types of fires.
5) Don't ever use cell phones when pumping gas.
6) It is the vapors that come out of the gas that cause the fire,
connected with static charges.
7) Several of the 150 cases (not nearly all, but several) involved
Dodge Caravans. (They don't know why, possibly more static).
After finding out that I usually go back in the van while I am
it with gas, Mr. Renkes stressed to me NEVER do that. If you
to get in your vehicle while the gas is pumping, make sure you get
close the door, TOUCHING THE METAL, before you ever pull the
This way the static from your body will be discharged before you
As I mentioned earlier, The Petroleum Equipment Institute, along
several other companies now, are really trying to make the public
this danger. You can find out more information by going to
Once here, click in the center of the screen where it says
I ask you to please send this information to ALL your family and
After talking with Lisa, I can see why she said she'd never go to
station with her kids in the car with her. If they had been in the
they would not have been able to get out in time.
Thanks for passing this along.
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