Monday, March 22


Static electricity can ignite fuel    Send a link to a friend [MARCH 22, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- After a recent fire set off by static electricity, the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal cautions motorists about the potential threat of fires at the gas pumps. The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, the American Petroleum Institute and the Petroleum Equipment Institute are reminding motorists to follow all safe refueling practices during their routine gasoline tank fill-up and to avoid potential problems with static electricity at the gas pump by staying outside the vehicle during refueling.

Static electricity-caused fires at the pump are extremely rare. In fact, Americans pump gasoline into their cars an estimated 11 billion to 12 billion times a year, generally without incident. But static electricity may build up when a motorist re-enters the vehicle during fueling and slides across the seat. When the motorist returns to the nozzle, the static may discharge at the fill point, potentially igniting gasoline vapors and causing a flash or a small sustained fire. Potential problems with static electricity at the pump may occur any time of year, but most typically incidents have occurred when the air is cool and dry. Although static electricity-related refueling fires are rare, according to the American Petroleum Institute and the Petroleum Equipment Institute, these incidents have caused a few injuries and some property damage.

The primary way consumers can avoid static electricity problems at the gas pump is to stay outside the vehicle while refueling. It may be a temptation to get back in the car for any number of reasons. But the average fill-up takes only two minutes, and staying outside the vehicle will greatly reduce the likelihood of any buildup of static electricity that could be discharged at the nozzle.


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If you experience a fire when refueling, leave the nozzle in the fill pipe of the vehicle and back away. Leaving the nozzle in the vehicle will prevent any fire from becoming much more dangerous. Notify the station attendant immediately to shut off all dispensing devices and pumps. If the facility is unattended, use the emergency shutdown button to shut off the pump, and try to summon help.

If you must re-enter your vehicle during refueling, be sure to discharge any static that may have built up before reaching for the nozzle again. Static may be safely discharged by touching a metal part of the vehicle, such as the vehicle door or some other metal surface away from the nozzle, with a bare hand.

Consumers can minimize these and other potential fueling hazards by following safe refueling procedures all year long. Always put portable gasoline storage containers on the ground to fill them, and keep the nozzle in contact with the rim of the container. Never allow children under licensed driving age to operate the pump.

For more information on avoiding potential problems with static electricity buildup at the pump, refueling safety, and safe fuel storage and handling guidelines, visit

[News release from
the Office of the State Fire Marshal]

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