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Danger at the Pumps

In these days of self-serve everything, most people know how to pump their own gas. But you might not know about a potential danger at the pumps. It’s called static.


According to the Petroleum Equipment Institute, there have been approximately 150 cases of static fire associated with pumping gas. Static occurs when people start filling their gas tanks and then re-enter their cars temporarily. When they return to the pumps, a static discharge can take place, possibly igniting a fire.

In these instances, people typically get back into their cars to make a phone call, retrieve a wallet, or talk with a passenger. A static charge can be generated when drivers move around in their cars. When the person touches the nozzle, a spark can ignite fuel vapors around the nozzle. Some retailers have placed signs on gasoline pumps notifying consumers of the danger.

To stop static, simply don’t go back into your car while the tank is filling. Summer 2003 ” Don’t smoke, light matches, or use lighters while refueling. This message is especially critical for people with children in the back seat. If a fire results, an adult might not be able to get a child out of the car fast enough. If you absolutely have to go back into your car for some reason, touch a metal part of your car that is not near the fuel tank area. Touching a metal portion of your car will dissipate any static charge that you may have built up while in the car.


The National Fire Protection Association offers these additional tips for safety in service stations:

  • Turn off the engine before refueling.
  • Don’t allow kids to pump gas. There have been an estimated 7,400 fires and explosions at public service gas stations between 1994 and 1998.
  • Don’t overfill the vehicle’s gas tank.
  • After pumping gasoline, leave the nozzle in the tank opening for a few seconds to avoid drips when you remove it.

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