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Q: Gas station explosions ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Gas station explosions
Category: Science > Technology
Asked by: kivacin-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 02 Sep 2002 10:55 PDT
Expires: 02 Oct 2002 10:55 PDT
Question ID: 60954
I heard that the metal clips on gas nozzles can create static
eletricity. Which can result in an explosion causing death. On gas
nozzles at gas stations. My question is. Is that true?
Subject: Re: Gas station explosions
Answered By: knowledge_seeker-ga on 02 Sep 2002 11:15 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
According to those great folks at this
phenomenon is more than just a rumour ... to quote their site:

Claim:   Static electricity is a suspected cause of a reported
increase in gas station refuelling fires.

Status:   True. 

Origins:   Unlike many Internet-circulated warnings, there is a fair
bit to this one -- fires at gas pumps are on the rise, and static
electricity is considered one of the likely culprits in this increase.
However, there's a great deal wrong with the e-mailed summary quoted
as the example above, a situation which illustrates the danger of
accepting as gospel whatever turns up in the inbox. We'll take you
through it, sorting information from misinformation.

To read more go to



For further information go to and select "Stop


search terms: none, I recently answered this question for a friend and
knew to check with Snopes.

Request for Answer Clarification by kivacin-ga on 02 Sep 2002 14:13 PDT
Although this site gave a lot of information, it never indicated that
the cause of fires could be from the clicker thing that holds the
trigger on during fueling so you can remove your hands from the
nozzle.  I may not have clarified that this is exactly what I was
looking for in my previous question.
Any info on this phenomena would be appreciated.

Clarification of Answer by knowledge_seeker-ga on 02 Sep 2002 16:30 PDT
Hi kivacin!

I cannot find anything that refers directly to the hold-open clip on a
gasoline nozzle causing a fire itself.  The issue is that the USE of
the clip allows the driver to return to his/her seat while waiting for
the tank to fill. The static builds up on the person and when he/she
returns to the nozzle and touches the metal, a static spark ignites
the fumes.

“People turn the pump on using the hold open clip inside the handle.
Then they get back into their cars, rubbing against the seat. That
creates static electricity which is discharged when they get out and
touch the pump again ...That's why the little clips that used to let
you keep the pump in the on position hands free were removed on most
Canadian pumps. The big gas companies did that voluntarily once the
problem was discovered.”

“Static electricity may occur when a person filling their tank leaves
the nozzle, gets back in their vehicle and rubs against the seats.
When they return to the vehicle fill pipe when the refueling is
complete the built up static may discharge at the fill point, causing
a brief flash fire with gasoline refueling vapors....For added safety
when refueling a vehicle, one should: not smoke, light matches or
lighters while refueling; use only the refueling latch provided on the
gasoline dispenser nozzle - never jam the refueling latch on the
nozzle open;…”

Unfortunately, the wording of the some of the warnings may be
ambiguous.  This one almost makes it sound as though the clip itself
were the cause of the spark.  But upon closer reading you can see they
are still referring to the danger of USING the clip in order to leave
the nozzle and return to your seat.

“Even though people are the main problem, one contributor to the
problem is the hold-open clip on gas nozzles. Some local jurisdictions
don’t allow hold-open clips on gas nozzles because of the potential
for static electricity sparks.”

One would have to do a closer study of these fires to determine the
exact cause, however, had any been known to be attributable directly
to the clip causing a spark or fire by itself, The PEI would have
reported that fact –

18 Fires Reported to PEI Where Refueler Did Not Reenter the Vehicle
and Touch the Nozzle During Refueling

So, my conclusion would be that the answer to your question is NO, the
actual clip on the gas nozzle has not, in itself, been the source of a
spark or static which has been attributed to fires or explosions at
gas stations.

Thanks for a great question and for allowing me to follow up with a
more complete answer.


Search terms used:

hold-open clip gas fire
hold-open clip gasoline fire
latch gasoline nozzle fire
kivacin-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Clarification was appreciated - thanks!
Good info - let us know the actual truth behind the rumor.
Clearly written answer by researcher K.

Subject: Re: Gas station explosions
From: blanketpower-ga on 03 Sep 2002 04:15 PDT
Many fueling stations (especially in NOHSA compliant construction and
mining sites) have a grounding cable that is supposed to be attached
to the vehicle before fueling for this very reason.

Another shocker (pun intentional)... there have been two cases in
South America of gasoline igniting when people had a cell phone in
their pocket. When the cell phone starts to ring there is a apparently
a huge surge of electromagnetic energy that is capable of igniging
gasoline fumes. This is not just rumor.. we had a formal safety
advisory at my workplace, and you are absolutely not allowed to have a
cell phone turned on in the fueling station.

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