QUESTION:

Can leaving vehicle running while pumping gas start a fire?

ANSWER:

Yes, experts say this can occur.

SOURCES:

American Petroleum Institute, Petroleum Equipment Institute, Macon-Bibb Fire Prevention Director: Chief Brenda Thomas

PROCESS:

Maybe you've seen one of those scary videos It shows someone pumping gas – then BOOM– a blaze breaks out! This one video uploaded to YouTube, got over 620,000 views alone.

Are videos of spontaneous gas fires legit and can it happen to you when refueling? The Verify team went to work on this.

We started by going to the experts at the Petroleum Equipment Institute, leaders of all things fuel related. They say static electricity, you know, the thing that shocks you after you drag your feet on the carpet, can ignite gasoline vapors at the pump.

The American Petroleum Institute reports in VERY rare cases, static electricity can increase when re-entering your car, especially during cold and dry weather-- and that can lead to a hasty flash fire happening at the fill point.

So what you can do? First, get rid of the static electricity you build up when you get out of the car, fire officials recommend.

"Always run your hand back across the metal side door of your car so you can try to disturb the static electricity," said Macon-Bibb Fire Prevention Director, Chief Brenda Thomas.

Next, always make sure you turn off your engine when you’re gassing up. That will take electricity and some heat out of the mix.

WUSA9 researchers verified, yes, these videos of gas station fires and the warnings that go with them, are real.

"Although you may not see it around in your neighborhood or where you live, it actually is a fact that these things can cause a fire," Thomas said.

API experts say if a static fire breaks out, leave the nozzle in the fill pipe and back away from the vehicle. Notify the station attendant immediately.

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