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Fowler Associates Labs

 

 

Static Fire Stories Articles & Technical Papers Current News
9 year old girl burnt over 50% of her body
in 1999 auto refueling fire

Jennifer Hazen, Editor
September 4, 2002

March 16, 1999 started like any other day. The Canfora family was headed out to dinner about 6 p.m. They stopped for gasoline at a Henderson Gas Station. (near Las Vegas) The next few minutes would change their lives forever.

Christine Canfora was driving the 1995 white Camaro. After she stopped at the station, she got out and headed in to pay for the gasoline ( approximately $5 worth). 9 year old Alexis was in the back seat of the car and called to her mother," Mom, can I pump gas?" Her mother said "yes" and looked to her father, Alex, to let her out of the car. Mr. Canfora leaned forward and Alexis slid out of the back seat.

Many people would say, "I would not let my 9 year old pump gas." Now, this reporter would say that, but before the series we are publishing on auto refueling fires, I might have also said, "yes." How many of us, especially boys, started cutting grass and filling the lawn mowers with gasoline at this early age? How many of us have ridden and refueled mo-ped's and go-carts? Hopefully these days of unwarned dangers are over for all of us.

Alexis opened the fuel door of the car, took off the gas cap, chose the grade of gasoline, then with both hands pumped a few gallons of gasoline into the car. She noticed something was wrong and there were flames coming out of the fuel port of the car. She took the nozzle out of the car and then tried to put it back again probably because of the gasoline still being pumped from the nozzle. Alexis held the nozzle out in front of her and called for her dad to help. Mr. Canfora said that Alexis yelled, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." The gasoline was being pumped on the car, the ground and splashing back onto Alexis at about 8 gallons per minute.

Mr. Canfora ran to help Alexis. Before he could reach her, the fumes from all the gasoline ignited from the fire at the fuel port opening. Dad and daughter were engulfed in a flash. Both were burned but Alexis received the most burns due to her clothing being ignited with all the splashed gasoline. A man who witnessed the event helped put the fire out on Alexis.

Alexis had to undergo many many operations and skin grafts. She is very strong in the face of such a tragedy. She is now (in 2002) 12 years old and a very good student. She will have to live with the scars and reconstructive and plastic surgeries of the future. Luckily, Alexis was not burned on her face.

 

The causes of the fire is without a doubt static induced. The actual source of the static is not known for certain. One thing is certain, the timing of Alexis getting out of the car, opening the fuel door, removing the fuel cap, selecting the gasoline, pumping a few gallons in a two fisted grip, does not allow the source of static to be Alexis herself. She was totally discharged. This means the "other" sources of static were to blame. The fuel pumping system - pump, hose, nozzle- may have caused the static build up from the flowing gasoline. We have found evidence of fires at fuel hose sysetms in our investigation of thesimilar incidents.The fuel system of the car may have had some contribution to the ignition.

 

The main thing to remember when we think of Alexis, is to not pull the nozzle out of the car if there is a fuel port fire. The splashing of gasoline caused the tragic injuries.

 

 

 

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