Don’t fill Tupperware containers with fuel, and other less obvious tips for gasoline storage

When it comes to fire safety, some things shouldn’t need saying — but then people go and fill Tupperware containers with gasoline and the local fire department has to issue a public service announcement.

Yes, that really did happen.

Corner Brook deputy fire chief Craig Harnum said the department has received several reports of people filling everyday containers with gasoline since the price of gas took a dive last month.

“We’ve seen people putting gasoline in pretty much everything from water jugs to Tupperware containers in the last 10 to 14 days,” Harnum said.

While firefighters were at a local gas station reminding the employees of the rules this week, they saw a man filling seven separate five-gallon gas containers and loading them into the back of his minivan.

The onus is really on the service station attendant to police the purchasing procedures.– Craig Harnum

Federal regulations allow up to six jerry cans to be carried in a vehicle, though safety experts strongly warn against such a large amount.

Harnum said most people don’t know the rules in the national fire code, and what might seem obvious to firefighters isn’t always the case for regular citizens.

In that case, Harnum said they spoke with the man and he apologized profusely.

“He was totally understanding,” Harnum said. “He didn’t realize there was such a rule, and it hasn’t been promoted a whole lot because with the price of gasoline over the last few years it’s never been a problem.”

So what do you need to know?

For starters, only CSA-approved containers should be used to carry fuel. Red cans are for gasoline, yellow is for diesel and blue is for kerosene. The approval stamp will usually be molded into the plastic of the can itself.

Anything less than standard — such as a Tupperware container or large water bottle — will eventually be eaten away by the fuel and cause a spill.

“You’re out in your shed doing what you would consider a minor job, make a little flash of a spark, and boom, you’ve got an inferno,” Harnum said.

Fire officials are seeing more people filling unsafe containers with gasoline, or storing too much in their cars and homes. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The other important thing to remember is how much gasoline you can have on your property.

In an attached garage, that limit is 30 litres, according to the fire code — a bit more than a five-gallon gas can.

Rules were recently revised to remove a hard limit for a detached garage, but the recommendation is still 30 litres for that, too.

With people hoarding gasoline and storing it in bulk, Harnum said gas station attendants have to play a large role in enforcing the regulations.

“What we need to drive home here is that the onus is really on the service station attendant to police the purchasing procedures,” he said.

As long as the price of fuel stays low, Harnum said people will want to buy it in bulk out of fear the price will suddenly rise again. But he’s hoping people will leave their Tupperware at home and bring their common sense to the pumps instead.

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