SC Refueling Fire!
Revisited with Mr. Sierra May 15, 2002
by Steve Fowler
original story ran the week of the accident. We went back to Mr.
Sierra's Restaurant for some fine Mexican Food and took the opportunity
to listen to his story again with some details we had not heard
or asked at the time along with a few newly added tidbits. By the
way, Jan says, try the "Chicken and Rice."
Sierra said that soon after his story ran in the local news, a woman
(who gave no name) called him at his restaurant and said: This happened
to me last December at the "Super K-Mart" and no-one believes
me." He told her that he believed her. She said she was not
hurt since the fire was put out so quickly but everyone said she
must have been smoking. Neither Mr. Sierra nor this woman have ever
smoked. Mr. Sierra said he went by the BP station
where his accident happened - now in his new car. He purchased gas
at a different island. The burned one still shows severe signs of
the fire. He asked the lady at the station, "What happened?"
He was told, "Some Mexican was smoking!" They did
not even remember him and had their story revised to fit their needs.
It seems that it is better for people to hear "smoking"
than "static" because it makes more sense in their minds
due to their inability to understand and accept the dangers. This
is the "Conspiracy of Silence" of which I have spoken
in the past.
asked Mr. Sierra to explain the initial fire he saw when he heard
the "spark". He said it was a flash like a transparent
ball that came up out of the fuel port and disappeared. Then
there was fire around the fuel door which drifted downward like
a "waterfall." As he pulled the nozzle out, he sprayed
fuel with transparent flames into the back of bed of the truck for
an instant before he dropped the nozzle and ran to get hid daughter
out of the truck. By the time he was getting his daughter out of
the passenger side of the truck, the truck bed was on fire with
orange flames and orange/blue flames were coming up from underneath
the truck "licking at his legs." He ran with his daughter
for just a few feet before the main explosion erupted.
Sierra has a sister named Guadeloupe who was born on the date of
the sighting of the Virgin. Maybe there is a saint watching him
by Jennifer Hazen February 20,2002
The proud owner of a new Toyota Tundra
truck stopped Monday morning, Feb. 18, 2002, to refuel for the first
time. It turned out to be a day he will not soon forget!
Sierra stopped at the BP Station at I85 & Hwy. 221 in Spartanburg,
South Carolina, around 8:30am, with his 6 year old daughter, Esperanza.
Mr. Sierra is the owner of "Nachos" Mexican Restaurant
on Hwy. 9 at Lake Bowen. (great food, by the way)
Mr. Sierra stepped out of his truck
to begin refueling. When he reached $8 of fuel he stopped to check
his wallet to make sure he had enough money for the purchase. He
went back and opened the door of his truck, kneeled in the seat
to reach the visor where he kept his wallet. He saw that he had
$20 so he began to pump more gas. That is when Mr. Sierra heard
a loud POP! He looked down to see flames shooting out of the gas
tank of his truck.
Sierra then stated: "I pulled the nozzle out and flames
were shooting from it. I threw it to the ground and it was shooting
flames under the truck. I ran around to the other side to get my
daughter out. She
was crying and I was screaming something like 'it's ok, I'll get
you!' I then ran away from the fire, carrying my daughter. Then
I heard the tires blow."
When Mr. Sierra ran to the otherside
of the BP station, he was met by the station attendant screaming,
"Somebody call 911!" We
found out later upon interviewing the fire chief that the fuel cut
off was right beside the cash register where the attendant had been
standing. In the panic of the moment, the fuel was not shut off
until the fire marshall came and turned it off. As Mr. Sierra stated,
he pumped $8 worth of gas but the report optained by the fire marshall
shows over 25 gallons was pumped. That means aproximately 17 gallons
was pumped after Mr. Sierra's truck caught fire and he dropped the
nozzle. The question remains in our minds as to how the nozzle continued
to pump gasoline while on the ground. These nozzles did not have
auto latching handles.
The ESD Journal spoke with Mr. Sierra
the day after the fire. He was very grateful to still have his daughter."I
can always get another truck!", he stated.
The Cherokee Springs Fire Department
responded to the alarm.
Reporters for the ESD Journal also spoke with the
Fire Chief, Pat Murray, and the Spartanburg County Fire Marshal,
Bill Hall. They were willing to discuss this with us because they
feel (as we do) that not enough publicity is given to these types
of fires and are often said to be rare. The fire marshall agreed
with us that these refueling fires are anything but rare and need
For more information on Stop Static
awareness visit the Petroleum Equipment Institute's website