‘Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline,’ safety commission warns drivers amid fuel shortage

Regional News

(NEXSTAR/WFXR) – As fuel stations in the East run out of gas amid panic-buying after cyberattackers hit the Colonial Pipeline on Friday, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is reminding drivers just how dangerous improperly stored gas can be.

“Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline,” the safety commission said in a tweet Wednesday. The reminder comes as images show desperate drivers lining up at the pumps and some hoarding containers full of gas.

The USCPSC urged users to only fill approved containers with gas and shared a video of what can happen when gas hits an open flame:

“We know this sounds simple, but when people get desperate they stop thinking clearly,” the USCPSC tweeted. “They take risks that can have deadly consequences. If you know someone who is thinking about bringing a container not meant for fuel to get gas, please let them know it’s dangerous.”

While there is currently no gasoline shortage because of the hack, government officials say, panic-buying has caused some stations to run out of fuel. If the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies roughly 45% of the fuel used on the East Coast, isn’t fully reopened by the weekend, analysts say the situation could deteriorate.

“We’re asking people not to hoard, and know that we are all over this,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday.

Workers were able to manually restart a large part of the pipeline on Monday, Granholm said, and Colonial Pipeline officials expect most operations to resume by the end of the week.

The governors of Virginia and North Carolina have declared a state of emergency as more gas stations run out of fuel. According to GasBuddy.com, as of Wednesday, 28% of North Carolina gas stations were out of fuel with another 17% in Virginia.

Multiple U.S. agencies are now working to provide alternate fuel transportation strategies, including allowing overweight loads of gasoline on interstate highways. The Department of Homeland Security will also be reviewing temporary waivers of the Jones Act, maritime law mandating that only American-flagged ships can move fuel and other shipments between U.S. ports.

The Virginia Department of Fire Programs is advising residents and commuters about the safe ways to dispense and store flammable fuels including gas, diesel and heating oil. They have offered the following tips to remember:

  • Flammable fuels should not be dispensed into portable containers over six gallons, and the containers should be listed and approved for the flammable liquid intended for the portable container. 
  • Portable containers should have a tight closure with a screwed or spring-loaded cover to prevent spills and vapors from escaping. 
  • When transporting gasoline in a portable container make sure it is secured against tipping and sliding, and never leave it in direct sunlight or in the trunk of a car.
  • Flammable fuel should never be dispensed into portable cargo tanks or any other container not listed for flammable liquids. 
  • Never fill a container while located in the trunk, passenger area of a car or in the bed of a pickup truck. 
  • All containers should be placed on the ground and clear of any possible ignition sources such as the exhaust from a vehicle. 
  • Fill portable containers slowly to decrease the chance of static electricity buildup and minimize spilling or splattering. Keep the nozzle in contact with the rim of the container opening while refueling. Fill container no more than 95 percent full to allow for expansion. 
  • If gasoline spills on the container, make sure that it has evaporated before you place the container in your vehicle. Report spills to the station attendant.
  • Never smoke around flammable fuels. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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