Incidents at Refueling Sites

During the past five years, the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) received sporadic reports from members--generally two or three per year-who had heard, usually secondhand, of fires occurring when small gasoline containers were filled at refueling sites. Because these accidents happened so infrequently and did not result in property damage or personal injury, PEI didn't do much with the information except to make a mental note of it.

Data supplied during the summer of 1995 by the Office of State Fire Marshal in Connecticut, however, suggested that fires of this sort were beginning to develop into a problem for fire enforcement officials and the general public. Officials of the State Fire Marshal identified six fires in Connecticut during the first half of 1995 that occurred when gasoline containers were filled at public service stations. In the Connecticut fires, Stage II vapor recovery systems were used to fill approved metal containers that rested on the carpeted floor of a vehicle or the bed of a pickup truck equipped with a plastic bedliner. The vapor recovery systems, from nozzle to dispenser, were checked for grounding (bonding) and were determined to have continuity. The ignition source which caused the fires originated within the container, thus static electricity was the suspected source of ignition. In each instance, a spark discharged when the nozzle came close to the metal container and ignited the flammable vapors.

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