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Sunday, May 16, 2004

Cell Phone Ignites Gas Station Fire

NEW PALTZ, N.Y., May 14, 2004

Flames shot up around a 21-year-old college student whose cell phone rang while he was pumping gas.

Can you hear me now?

Firefighters said Matthew Erhorn, a SUNY New Paltz student, received minor burns at a Mobil station near the New York State Thurway (Interstate 87) Thursday night.

"I'm very surprised," Erhorn said.

He shouldn't have been. There's a sign at the pumps at the New Paltz gas station warning that cell phones should be turned off for safety while pumping gas.

Firefighters believe the cell phone ignited vapors coming from the car's fuel tank as it was being filled.

It doesn't take much of a charge to ignite gasoline vapors, New Paltz fire chief Patrick Koch told WCBS-AM's Peter Haskell. "Anything, really. Women's nylon stockings when they get out of a vehicle, that can cause a spark, too."

That's why motorists are told "don't use their cell phones when they're pumping gas. Really, it's deadly," Koch said.

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