When a car knocked over a gas pump at a Columbia Pike service station Monday morning, the resulting fire caused thousands of dollars in damage and snarled rush hour traffic. But there were no injuries, and certainly no deaths.
A police spokesman said that was partly due to a quick response by Arlington firefighters. But he also gave some credit to the gas station’s employees. “The staff immediately hit the emergency cut-off switch,” said Matt Martin, Arlington Police Department spokesman.
The fire occurred shortly after 9 a.m. on Monday, March 8, at the George Mason Shell station, 4211 Columbia Pike. The driver was trying to reposition her car, to change from a full-service lane to a self-service pump, said Martin.
“In doing so, she lined herself up with one of the pumps,” he said. “From what we know at this point, she mistook the brake for the gas, and ended up pressing on the gas and backing over one of the pumps.”
Both the driver and her passenger realized what happened immediately, he said, and got out of the car. But gas in the pump flowed out around the car, which caught fire. “The car was completely gutted, and one pump was completely knocked off its moorings,” said Martin.
<b>THE ONLY REASON</b> there was not more damage, and injuries, was because station staff realized what had happened immediately, Martin said, and shut off the mechanism pumping fuel from an underground tank through the station’s pumps.
Firefighters from Fire Station 1 received the call as an auto fire at a gas station, said Capt. George Williams, spokesman for the Arlington Fire Department. “As they got nearer, they got the information that a vehicle ran into one of the pumps,” and decided then to use foam to put out the fire, he said, due to the presence of gasoline.
In any gas station fire, he said, an emergency shut-off switch should help mitigate the fire, if employees throw it quickly. “All gas stations, by code, must have the emergency shut-off.
<b>DESPITE THE FIRE</b> George Mason Shell should be pumping gas again this week, said employee Izhar Ahmed, and the car repair part of the station is unaffected by the fire. “The bays are open,” said Ahmed. “The pumps they are repairing, doing wiring,” and could be open by Wednesday, he said.
But the fire is having some impact on the station. “I’m losing $2,000 to $3,000 a day” in gas sales, said Ahmed.