Please Don't Hoard Gas Because It Will Catch Fire And Burn Down Your Apartment

Listen, we know gas costs more than $4 a gallon, and may go even higher, but that doesn’t mean you should start stockpiling gas. Two Dartmouth natives learned this the hard way when the 45-gallons of gas they were hoarding in nine plastic jugs ignited, nearly burning down their eight-unit apartment complex.

“If it had not been for the sprinklers, this building would have probably burnt to the ground,” said Jennifer Mieth, a spokeswoman for state Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan.

[...]

The jugs were covered by cloth rags and stacked in a hallway closet that housed the air conditioning system, Chief Arruda said.

[...]

The husband jumped from the second-floor balcony to escape the fire and sprained his ankle, he said. Everyone else escaped the building without injury.

The Fire Marshal’s Office determined that the fire was accidental, resulting from a heat source — likely the natural gas water heater or a propane-powered cooking appliance — igniting vapors from the stored gas, Ms. Mieth said.

The couple, who have yet to be named, can expect a letter from the folks behind the Darwin Awards reading, “We like your style, but try harder next time.”

Gas hoarding eyed as cause of Dartmouth apartment fire [The Standard-Times]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. pine22 says:

    fission mailed

  2. Bakkster_Man says:

    Perhaps they got the plastic containers from Walmart?

  3. Televiper says:

    @Bakkster_Man: No, they were extremely stupid no matter where they shopped.

    This sucks because I also live in an 8 unit apartment.

  4. Candyman says:

    Stored next to the water heater?? WITH RAGS SITTING ON TOP??? Jezuz, what kind of mouth breathing morons were these?

  5. Televiper says:

    @Candyman: They probably put the rags on top thinking it would smother the fumes giving their apartment that gasoline odour.

  6. donkeyjote says:

    And this is why you are supposed to use certified metal tanks to store gas for long periods (even though gas does tend to expire…)

  7. unpolloloco says:

    @donkeyjote: And not store gas next to ignition sources, nor inside a closet

  8. @Candyman: Yeah, I love that part. As if storing multiple jugs of gas inside rented property wasn’t already bad enough.

    I think I know somebody who’s getting served with a lawsuit from their landlord’s insurance company.

  9. SacraBos says:

    I had a moron that lived next door to me that nearly torched our 8-unit building. He had a furniture-oil rag under his sink, with the oil bottle on top of it. Classic spontaneous combustion setup. He had no idea that storing oily rags like that was dangerous – and he was the Manager of a paint store!

  10. @Televiper: This sucks because I also live in an 8 unit apartment.

    Having lived in a complex where the apartment next door burned to the ground (see awesome fire photo) but left mine untouched except for some smoke damage, I’m tempted to think that modern apartments are designed to contain fires.

    I don’t know if unit isolation is a part of fire code, but that building had solid concrete separating the units. The apartment below the fire only had minimal water damage, which was mitigated because the fire department laid tarps downstairs to protect that person’s stuff.

    Oh, and sign up for renter’s insurance. It’s really cheap. I pay something like $5/month for $10000 of coverage.

  11. And here are some after photos for the curious. Everyone got out fine; the cause was a smoldering cigarette from a drunk girlfriend (the only smoker) on a bean-bag chair.

  12. Lastly, as for the question “am I safe if the unit next door bursts into flames”, I suggest checking with your landlord about the construction. It’s good info to know.

    (please accept my sincerest apologies for the multipost)

  13. dottat1 says:

    were the rags soaked in linseed oil?

  14. Phas3Sh1ft says:

    Doesn’t everyone get one “oops” moment?

  15. cynu414 says:

    @Phas3Sh1ft: This counts for at least 4.5 oops-es

  16. TechnoDestructo says:

    Next bizarre gasoline-related story you run, use a frame from the Road Warrior for the picture.

  17. levenhopper says:

    All I want to know is how the Fire Department can tell that there were rags sitting on top of the gas containers.

    …unless the buyers of the gas admitted to that, there would be no way of realizing, since the rags would burn up.

  18. @levenhopper: I don’t know what I’m talking about, but if it was the rags that caught fire and then the canisters exploded, I’m of the impression fire investigators can identify that sort of sequence of events.

  19. @Michael Belisle: Oh wait, the jugs did not explode. So yeah, they can tell that there were rags then.

  20. Lambasted says:

    I actually feel sorry for this couple (and of course their poor neighbors too). There was a Science Channel program called “What if the Oil Ran Out?” The show focused on how people would react to a severe gas shortage and high price spikes in whatever gas was still available. People were stockpiling as much gas as they could at home under armed guard. The idea of hoarding gas is not unreasonable but was flawed in this couple’s execution.

    Inevitable failure is what happens when: An Idea Occurs to Good People Who Don’t Google. If the couple had just used my dear friend and yours, Google, and searched for the terms: “storing gasoline at home,” clicking on the very first search result would have told them everything they needed to know to prevent their inevitable disaster:

    How many times have you seen people pumping gasoline into milk jugs and the like and then putting it in the trunk of the car or the back of the truck to haul it home? Have you ever wondered how they make it home without setting the vehicle on fire, or how they keep the house from burning days later when the fuel expands, possibly rupturing the jug or blowing the top off? Milk jugs, anti-freeze jugs, glass containers and many ‘gas cans’ are not suitable for carrying or storing gasoline.

    Many of us must store some gasoline around our homes to operate lawnmowers, tillers, chainsaws and so on. But if stored improperly, a fire or explosion could result, destroying the house and causing injury or death. Gasoline is a product designed to fuel internal combustion engines. It is a highly volatile liquid, and its vapors can be ignited easily by a spark, flame or other hot object. When mixed with air in the right proportions, the vapor of one cup of gasoline has the explosive power of about five pounds of dynamite, enough destructive force to destroy any house or car.

    Storing gasoline and other highly flammable liquids at home is also dangerous if not done properly. The best way to store gasoline is in a well ventilated area separate from the house. The location should have no electrical equipment, open flames or other sources of ignition present. In addition, the location should be protected from the heat of the summer sun to keep evaporation to a minimum.

    Do not store gasoline in the basement of your home or in the utility room. The furnace, water heater, clothes dryer or any of several other items could ignite fumes which may leak from the can and travel considerable distances.

    What is the lessoned learned here? You don’t know everything…but Google does.

  21. opsomath says:

    Gasoline has volatiles. They’re what is responsible for making it ignite in your car engine. So, when they evaporate, the remaining liquid will suck as gasoline even if the volatile flammable fumes don’t make you go “Boom.”

    I honestly thought everybody knew about this. Hasn’t everyone had to start a lawnmower at some point? That’s why old gas sucks in lawnmowers.

  22. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m tickled by the fact that they “protected” the fuel-bombs by covering them with rags. As in, “If it’s harder to see them then it’s got to be safer. Right?”
    Shudder.
    No sympathies. I hope seven tenants’ insurance companies and the owner’s land on them like a ton of black-hole density bricks and ensure that they never are able to cash a check in the United States again.
    Jeezus. It makes me nostalgic for the crack dealer I had for a downstairs neighbor – gunfire included free! - was relatively responsible. Well, irresponsible, but he hosted great parties.

  23. chiieddy says:

    The 15 neighbors that shared the building with them were rightly pissed off.

  24. oxygen thieves

  25. bobbleheadr says:

    Since a 5 gallon gas can cost like $30 buck these folks were investing $10 a gallon to hedge against price increases. Wow thats dumb

  26. Angryrider says:

    What bunch of fudging idiots. If they want to stockpile petro, they should have used better tanks.

  27. I think I’d spontaneously come bust that idiot in the head.

  28. tedyc03 says:

    Wow. Just wow.

    I don’t normally blame the victim but geez…how did these people even get to be their age without dying in some freak gasoline fight accident or something?

  29. endless says:

    Reminds me of a story one of my teachers told me a few years ago.

    This was during the era of 1.50$ gasoline so i really dont remember the details about the story. But it was about people in the 70s managing to do something fairly similar, stocking piling gas poorly, nothing good coming from it.

  30. ChChChacos says:

    I live really close by to this story.

    What they don’t tell you is that the people who lived here were doctors! Aren’t they supposed to have some kind of a brain and know better?

  31. Televiper says:

    @Michael Belisle: I pay about $20 a month for the extreme comprehensive coverage. That’s up to $35,000 even if there’s no signs of forced entry (useful when you live in a basement apartment). It also covers damage I cause to other homes :)

  32. knucklesammichwitCheese says:

    @Ash78: HaHa!! Make another funny pleaseeeeeee…. ;)

  33. Pasketti says:

    The funny thing is that they really wouldn’t have saved all that much money.

    Let’s say gas goes up by 50 cents over the next 6 months. That’s only $22.50. I doubt that would even cover the cost of the 9 plastic jugs they used.

    Unless you have a seriously large tank (500 gallons or more), it just isn’t worth doing something like this.

  34. digitalhen says:

    it’s $9.60 in England. the US still have it so cheap.

  35. yesteryear says:

    sadly, we’re going to start seeing a lot more of this type of behavior. people who don’t have a back up plan (read: bicycle) are going to start flipping out over the next year or so as gas reaches $6 and $7 a gallon. i suggest that everyone get a gun!

  36. cmgaviao says:

    seems to me there may be a market for small consumer hedging programs LOL…

  37. @Pasketti: Yeah, my first reaction was not “why weren’t they more careful?” but “why the hell would you do this?”. There is a mass hysteria about $4 gas, which I think scratches the same itch people had for Y2K and other perceived disasters before it. Sure, some folks are getting hit by increased gas prices (cf. the other gasoline story on Consumerist today), and we’re all paying a little more for everything, but the media-amplified cries of doom and gloom are way out of proportion to the economic reality.

  38. ludwigk says:

    @Michael Belisle: it depends on the intensity of the fire, but if the building was constructed with firewalls (concrete, flame retardant drywall and non combustible insulation) then it can greatly reduce the risk of fire damage spreading.

  39. Speak says:

    @opsomath: Um, I’m actually one of those people who only recently learned that it’s the fumes that make gasoline dangerous to handle. Reasons why I didn’t know this: 1) My family uses an electric lawnmower; 2) post-high school, I’ve only lived in cities so I’ve never owned a car; 3) I’ve never made a Molotov cocktail (joking).

  40. mythago says:

    Which is to say, if you have asbestos-containing fire-rated drywall, your apartment will burn less or not at all. Don’t breathe, though.

  41. Orv says:

    @AtomicPlayboy: Agreed. Stockpiling is a reasonable reaction if you expect shortages, but not if you only expect the price to go up a buck or two in the next year.

  42. Sundermania says:

    Epic fail

  43. Breach says:

    Dumbasses, I mean I get stockpiling in a sense, but still no reason to store a lot of gasoline in your apartment’s unvented storage room.

  44. Charred says:

    Pardon me whilst I laugh uncontrollably.

  45. trustsatan says:

    hee hee – this reminds me of the rash of house explosions that occurred before the new millenium. The media had been hitting hard on the “Y2K apocalypse” angle during the run-up and apparently it became fashionable among the “differently-abled” to try to stockpile kerosene and gasoline in containers stored indoors (here’s where I start giggling and my scholarly demeanor breaks down.)

    Never underestimate the average human being’s capacity to act in direct opposition to his or her own interests.