Intersection

Fear factor: A local gas pump fire stokes a pre-existing anxiety

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I’m afraid of catching fire at the gas pump. Ridiculous, you say—but if you knew how oddly static-ridden I am, maybe you’d understand. See, it’s rare that I slide out of my car without hearing the snnaaapp! of static electricity. I shock myself on door handles constantly. My pants and couches simply do not get along. Perhaps I should change my brand of dryer sheets—but for now I’ll stick to worrying about gas fires.

On days when I know I’ll have to stop at the gas station, I try not to wear shoes that produce an excess of static, and I sure as hell don’t wear polyester. As I roll up to the pump, I unplug my phone from its USB cord and ground myself by touching something metal … multiple times. Some call it superstitious; I call it wanting to live long enough to see the next season of Grace and Frankie.

So when I saw video a few weeks ago of a car ablaze at my neighborhood Circle K, I freaked. I’ve never actually seen a gas pump fire, but watching that clip felt like witnessing a real-life nightmare. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the incident got me thinking more about my fear of these terrifying incidents. How common are they? Should I really be afraid, or is this just unsubstantiated anxiety?

I reached out to Clark County Deputy Fire Chief John Steinbeck to quell my nerves, and to my delight, he says gas pump fires aren’t common. “We do not respond on them very often, due to a thorough inspection program and gas stations following proper industry safety procedures,” he said.

I might be the only one in Southern Nevada with this strange fear, but Steinbeck has some tips for not getting lit at the gas station nonetheless: Turn off your vehicle; never smoke or have any open flames while fueling your car; don’t overfill or “tap-off” the tank; and never fill a portable container that isn’t on the ground. He also advises avoiding sources of static, like electronic devices, or getting in and out of your car. “If a fire starts, do not try to stop the flow of gasoline,” Steinbeck says. Instead, “evacuate immediately and report spills to the attendant.”

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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