Sparks Car Fire
By Jan Katz Ackerman
Hays Daily News
Submitted by KSFFA Webmaster
—Jan, 29, 2002- Static electricity is being blamed for a fire
that engulfed a man's clothes, his pickup, a gas pump and a nearby
light pole Sunday.
Todd Best, was pumping gasoline into
his 1996 Chevrolet pickup at Zimmerman Repair when he reached down
to slow the gas flow into the vehicle, and a spark of static electricity
ignited the fumes coming from the fill spout of the truck.
"It happened so fast I didn't
realize what was happening. It went off like a barbecue, you know
that 'whoof' sound, then pop, it went off. The next thing I knew
I was in a ball of fire. I reached down and brushed out the fire
on my pants and that's when I realized my coat was on fire. Today,
I have some bruises I didn't know I had. I must have hit the door
when I took off running," Best said.
The force of the explosion shut off
the nozzle, and as Best was running away he flagged down the driver
of a vehicle who took him back into Hoxie to get help.
Zimmerman Repair, owned by Elmer Zimmerman,
is located just south of Hoxie on U.S. Highway 24.
Zimmerman said he was returning from
Selden in his bulk gas truck when he came upon the fire.
"I was half way down Main Street
when I saw the smoke and when I got to the elevator I could see
the flames. Todd was already headed to town and it didn't take long
for the fire department to get here," Zimmerman said.
The elevators Zimmerman was speaking
about are approximately 1,000 feet north of the repair shop.
While Best was not injured in the explosion,
his vehicle is considered a total loss.
"There's nothing left of the truck
but the rear bumper and right rear tire," Zimmerman said.
Best said he is beginning to learn
from his insurance companies — homeowner's and vehicle — which items
are covered and which are not. He said his homeowners insurance
is expected to cover various items that were in the pickup, such
as personal items like his gun. However, he's been told that items
attached to the pickup, such as a citizens band radio and cell phone,
are not going to be covered by the homeowner's policy.
"The stuff you actually do need
to replace they won't," he said.
Best was expected to visit with an
adjuster for his vehicle insurance to determine which items will
be covered on Tuesday.
While the incident may be considered
a freak accident, Zimmerman said fires ignited this way occur more
often than one might expect. He said about two years ago a similar
incident happened at a Colby gas station, and he said he continually
receives newsletters from petroleum suppliers warning about such
Twelve firefighters from Sheridan County
Rural Fire District respond to the fire. Assistant Fire Chief Ed
Conard said that while the damage to the truck and gas station was
extensive, the firefighters were thankful that Best was not injured.
He said he is surprised that more static
electricity related fires have not occurred due to the unseasonably
warm and dry weather conditions.
"Right now with the relative humidity
as low as it is the fire danger is very, very high. The slightest
spark of static electricity can ignite gas fumes, and recently I
read that if conditions are right, a spark can spontaneously ignite
something as far away as 30 feet," Conard said.
Zimmerman said no dollar value has
been determined regarding the damage to his station, and he expected
insurance adjusters to arrive today. He said he expects his station
to be out of service anywhere from one to two weeks while repairs
are being made.