Nevada Appeal

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March 22, 2006
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Static ignites gas vapors at pump

CARSON CITY - A Minden man narrowly escaped injury Wednesday afternoon when the gas pump he was using ignited, apparently because of static electricity.

"I had just pumped 14 gallons of gas, started taking the nozzle out and it just caught fire," said Dan Luke, a retired state trooper. "It startled me. It just arced."

Luke said he turned the pump off, put the nozzle on the ground and yelled to onlookers to evacuate the Frontier Motel next door to the Western Energetix pumps at Adaline and North Carson streets. Luke then tried to stop traffic.

Within minutes the two pumps and Luke's pickup, filled with supplies and a can of diesel fuel, was up in flames. Carson City firefighters quickly contained the 2 p.m. blaze and prevented damage to surrounding buildings.

Drew Seitz, who works across the street at Kragen said when he saw the fire, he tried to come back with an extinguisher, but it was too late.

"I looked back and the whole side of the truck, the pumps and the ground were on fire. It looked like he tried to get back into the truck to move it, but by then the pumps were on fire, the truck was engulfed in fire and the tires were blowing up off the truck. It was pretty bad," he said. "I watched from across (Carson) street. You could feel the heat from across the street."

Fire Chief Stacey Giomi said static electricity likely ignited the gasoline fumes.

"It doesn't take much to ignite gasoline," he said. "Anything electric - a spark, your cell phone - can cause the vapors to ignite."

He added that to prevent a spark, keep the nozzle of the hose in contact with the automobile during fueling to ground the electric charge.

Luke, who retired from the Nevada Highway Patrol after 22 years, said he was sorry to see the condition of the truck he and his son use for their landscaping business.

But mostly, he was in awe of what he witnessed and escaped.

"This is the kind of thing you hear about happening but never really see," he said. "This was the most amazing thing I've ever seen."

Carson Street traffic from Bath to William streets was blocked for about 45 minutes.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Mar 22, 2006 09:34PM Published Mar 22, 2006 12:00AM Copyright 2006 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.