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Cell Phones

South Portland Fire Department

Fire and Life Safety Message


Because of the severe cold, I wanted to make sure that the gas tank in my car was full so that the gas line would not freeze. As I approached the filling station the person in front of me was fueling his car and talking on his cell phone. He had put the fueling device nozzle on automatic so that he could have his hands free to talk. When he completed his conversation he put his phone away and was prepared to finish fueling his car when I saw the effects of static electricity zap his hand. This is a common scene when the weather is cold and the air is dry.  Seeing this made me wonder how dangerous is this practice of cell phone use and static electricity?


The Shell Oil Company has just released a warning after three such incidents in which mobile phones ignited fumes during fueling operations.


In the first case, a phone was placed on the trunk during fueling; it rang and the ensuing fire destroyed the car and the gasoline pump.


In the second case, an individual suffered burns to the face when he answered the phone while fueling.


And in the third, an individual suffered burns to the thigh and groin as fumes ignited when the phone, which was in their pocket, rang while they were fueling their car.


Cell phones can ignite fuel and fumes. Cell phones that light up when switched on or that ring, release enough energy to provide a spark for ignition. Cell phones should not be used at filling stations, or when fueling lawn mowers, boats etc.


A Few Rules For Safe Fueling

  1. Turn off the engine
  2. Don’t smoke
  3. Don’t use cell phones.  Leave it inside the vehicle or turn it off
  4. Don’t reenter your vehicle during fueling.
  5. Almost all cases involved the person getting back into their vehicle while the nozzle was still pumping gas.  When they finished and went back to pull the nozzle out, the fire started, as a result of static electricity
  6. It is the vapors that come out of the gas that cause the fire, when connected to static charges
  7. If you choose to get in your vehicle while fueling make sure that you Touch the Metal, before you ever pull the nozzle out. This way the static electricity from your body will discharge before you ever remove the nozzle.


Yours in Life Safety

Chief Kevin Guimond