How to prevent sparks when pumping gas, after Big Island gas station fire

Local News

A Big Island man is recovering on Oahu Monday night after being severely burned in a fire at a gas station in Captain Cook.

The fire burned part of Patel’s Spirit Gas station, the man’s car as well as a nearby vehicle.

According to the Hawaii County Fire Department, a spark ignited when the man had been pumping gas.
Witnesses say, while the fire was happening, they could see the smoke coming from down the road, and flames reaching past the roof.

“The flames were pretty big. I mean I was on the Mauka side of the road and the gas station is on the Makai side and you could like – passing it, you could feel the heat,” said Takara Gallinger who witnessed the fire.

Frank Young who owns K&Y Auto Service, while uncommon, a spark while pumping gas can happen no matter what car you drive.

“It doesn’t matter because it’s all… a fire, 99 percent of the time is due to static electricity,” said Young. “Service stations, the oil companies do everything they can to prevent it, but you’re dealing with a very volatile product.”

He says that’s why there are signs posted around gas stations reminding people not to use their cell phones or to top off their gas. Both those things could cause a spark that could catch fire.

“They’re holding the cellphone, they’re holding the nozzle away from the neck on top of the fact that they’re dragging their feet…,” said Young. “You get that static electricity then you get that spark that jumps between the nozzle and the metal.”

Young recommends staying on the safe side, especially in dry weather when sparks are more likely to occur.

“Make sure the nozzle is touching the neck and if its touching the neck then you’re not going to get the static electricity,” said Young.

Richard Rhode, a professor for Fire and Environmental Emergency Response says people sliding across their car seats generate static electricity in small amounts. 

So he recommends, touching the outside surface of the car prior to pumping fuel to discharge the static buildup.

They say if you see a spark, immediately let go of the gas pump and inform someone who’s working at the gas station. Most gas station cashiers are trained to know what to do in case a ircumstance like this one ocurs.

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