If you’re having a bad day at work, just remember it could be much worse. How much worse? A few days ago we reported on the massive fire at a Sterling Heights, Michigan dealership that gutted the service department and destroyed 30 cars, all of them belonging to customers. The fire started around 7:30 p.m. when a janitor reportedly caused a “big ball of flame to erupt” while cleaning the floors with an industrial floor cleaner. As far as on-the-job mistakes go, it pretty much ranks right at the top. But there’s a bit more to the story than that.
WXYZ news in Detroit obtained both the 9-1-1 call made by the worker as well as surveillance video of the moment the blaze erupted, released by Buff Whelan Chevrolet. In the call, the worker said “something was leaking gas and it caught fire,” and later said “there’s a gas tank on the ground and I think there was fuel leaking out of it.” He’s not wrong, but the video shows he actually knocked the fuel tank over a few minutes before the fire. Oops.
According to the report, he attempted to clean up the spilled fuel by hand, then continued to clean the floor with the buffer. As the machine got near the fuel, well we all know what happens when gasoline meets fire. We’re not sure if this style floor buffer is electric or propane powered, but either way, the result was the biggest fire in the city’s history according to more than a few firefighters.
The report suggests the dealership wants to make sure it doesn’t get blamed for having leaking tanks or faulty equipment, hence why the video was released. We can understand that, but we also feel really bad for this poor guy who was just trying to do his job. Perhaps there was a little bit of backpedaling in that call, but how would you respond if you just got burned in a gasoline explosion that set a car dealership on fire?
There are no winners here. It was obviously an accident and we suspect many people out there wouldn’t think twice about rolling over some gasoline with a floor cleaner, especially if it was a small amount. We're just happy nobody was seriously hurt.
Hopefully this incident will remind people just how flammable gasoline – and especially gasoline vapor – can be. In other words, don't clean up flammable spills using anything that requires flammable fuel or electricity to run.