GOSHEN, Ind. — For most people, the use of gasoline is a routine, almost benign part of our lives. We fill our tanks and move on. Occasionally, we might complain about the price, but we rarely think about the dangers it can present to us or our family if misused.
Most of the risk of handling gasoline has been “engineered away” for us, to decrease the chance of accidental exposure to flames or static electricity. That is a good thing, for the vapor from just one gallon of gasoline in a 250-gallon fuel talk has as much explosive energy as 83 sticks of dynamite. On a warm day, an uncapped gasoline tank may release several gallons of fuel. Those lingering vapors can be easily ignited by nearby items such as water heaters, welders, static electricity from getting out of your car, or even sparks from mowers and trimmers.
Diesel fuel is much less dangerous than gasoline. The flash point of gasoline (the temperature at which it becomes explosive) is minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The flash point of diesel is 100 degrees. Gasoline will vaporize at 0 degrees, while diesel vaporizes at 100 degrees.
Unsafe practices such as smoking or using power tools are not very forgiving around gasoline. Other tips for using gasoline-powered equipment include:
- Store gasoline far away from spark producing equipment such as welders or grinders.
- In trucks with plastic bedliners, put gasoline cans on the ground before filling. Static buildup from the bedliner can ignite gasoline fumes.
- When filling a gasoline tank, put the fuel nozzle against the tank inlet. This will prevent a static buildup in the fuel hose.
Another unsafe practice is to create a torch using gasoline. A few years ago, a local resident was hospitalized while lighting a gasoline-fueled torch on the end of a stick. If it is necessary to build a torch, diesel fuel is a much better choice. On a side note, using a torch to burn the webbing created by fall webworms in a tree does more damage to the tree than the caterpillars do.
To extinguish a fuel fire, use an ABC-type dry chemical fire extinguisher. Trying to extinguish a gas or diesel fire with water will lead to disaster. The water converts to steam and spread the fire quickly. Safety experts suggest one 5-pound ABC fire extinguisher in every truck, tractor and vehicle on the farm.
— Jeff Burbrink, Extension Educator, Purdue Extension Elkhart County
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