Gas Pumps

Static Electricity Fires at the Gas Pumps

The Dubuque Fire Department and the Dubuque area fuel distributors are working together to inform the consumers of the possibility of a flash fire occurring while fueling their vehicles at the pumps. It has come to our attention from the petroleum industry that there is an increase in fires at fueling stations caused by static discharges. Due to changes in the manufacturing of vehicles, clothing, and fuel pumps there seems to be an increase in the number of static discharges at the pumps.

In the colder months people have a tendency to return to their car while fueling and/or wearing sweaters and heavy coats, which increase the static currents in the body. If the vapors are mixed right with the surrounding air, the vapors ignite. This can also happen if you are filling a portable container if you do not set the container on the ground or do not keep the nozzle in contact with the container.

Reported Cases In Dubuque

In Dubuque, we have had two reported cases, neither required a Fire Department response or reported any injuries. One of the cases involved a gentleman re-entering his vehicle while fueling. He reached for the nozzle after exiting the vehicle and the static spark jumped to the nozzle from his hand igniting the vapors coming from the tank.

The other involved fueling heavy equipment and the nozzle was not in contact with the neck of the tank. The spark jumped from the nozzle to the neck of the tank igniting the vapors. Most cases have been reported to be happening from November to March when the weather is dry, however, they can occur any time of the year.

Prevention Tips

  • Turn off your ignition
  • Do not smoke while fueling
  • Touch a metal body part of the vehicle before removing the gas cap
  • Do not re-enter your vehicle while fueling
  • If you do re-enter, touch a metal body part of the vehicle once you are out of the vehicle.
  • Keep the nozzle in contact with the fill neck at all times while fueling
  • Remove portable containers from the vehicle and place them on the ground a safe distance from the vehicle while filling them
  • Keep nozzle in contact with the container or tank

Additional information can be found through the Petroleum Equipment Institute and American Petroleum Institute. You can also contact the Dubuque Fire Marshal's office at 563.589.4161 or 563.589.4195.

Watch a short gas station safety video