Local News

Driver Fired For Rocky Mount Kerosene/Gas Mixup

Posted January 27, 2005 4:23 a.m. EST

— Investigators blame four fires on kerosene heaters filled with a gasoline mixture. A Rocky Mount convenience store said a driver from Ace Transport accidentally filled its kerosene tank with gasoline. Now, the driver is out of a job.

"It's very rare that they contaminate something like that. The guy just wasn't paying attention," said Jerry Butler, of the state Agriculture Department's standards division, which regulates gas pumps.

Butler said gas stations are required to clearly mark with a different color valves for each type of fuel.

"They vary from company to company. You have to be careful when my guys are out at the store to make sure we don't cross-contaminate it," Butler said.

In addition to the color-coding system, the owner of Ace Transport said his company also puts a label on each drop box, so the driver knows exactly what is supposed to go in that tank. He said both systems were in place at the Trade Mart in Rocky Mount.

The owner of the Kenly-based delivery company said he plans to make safety changes, which include sealing kerosene tanks with a plastic tie so drivers have to cut it to fill the tank. Other possibilities include a different-sized connection so kerosene and gasoline tanks could not be confused.

"That wouldn't be a problem. It's just getting the manufacturers to agree to do it. There is no regulation, no laws, so we couldn't force anybody to do anything," Butler said.

Insurance companies for Trade Mart and Ace Transport are working with fire victims who bought the tainted kerosene. Investigators said if you think you purchased some, return it immediately.

If you think your heater was filled with tainted kerosene, officials said to make sure you empty all the kerosene and flush out the heater before using it again. They recommend turning the kerosene heater on outside and letting it run for at least 10 minutes, which should ensure there's no remaining residue that could spark a fire.