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Burn victim warns of truck bed liner hazard

April 29, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

Darlene Bloyer's frightening experience with fire has prompted her to spread the word about the dangers of plastic bed liners in pickup trucks.

Bloyer was filling an approved five-gallon gas can at the Sunoco Station at 1000 Dual Highway on April 16 when static electricity produced a spark that ignited gasoline fumes.

"I was filling the can in the bed of the truck because I knew I wouldn't be able to lift it when it was full,'' Bloyer said.

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When the can was almost full, flames erupted around the bottom of the can.

After laying the nozzle on the ground, the Mount Aetna Road resident said, "I opened the tailgate and tried to get the handle out of the can, but I couldn't because of the flames."

At that point, she began dragging the can out of the back of the truck by the flimsy rubber nozzle.

"It dropped hard on the ground and gasoline and flames splashed on me and on the ground,'' Bloyer said.

She stopped, dropped and rolled in the grass, as she remembered from fire safety tips she learned as a child.

Despite that action, Bloyer was burned on the right leg and the bottoms of her sneakers melted.

"It wasn't that I was actually on fire,'' Bloyer said. "The gasoline vapors around me were on fire - the flames were sort of dancing on me."

"When the attendant saw the flames and me out there in my stocking feet, he came running out with a fire extinguisher and sprayed all around the can,'' Bloyer said.

Unsuccessful at dousing the fire, the attendant kicked over the can and burning gas began flowing down the incline in front of the station, catching several bushes on fire.

The fires were out when the Hagerstown Fire Department arrived. Even the veterans were surprised when they heard how the fire had started.

Hagerstown Fire Marshal Tom Brown said the problem was a new one for him.

"That's because bed liners are so popular now on pickup trucks,'' Brown said. "If the can is on the metal of the truck bed, it's grounded and there can be no spark.''

The plastic liner keeps the can from making contact with the grounded truck and is subject to static electricity and a spark, Brown said.

"There is a warning on bed liners, but this is the first time I've ever seen this happen,'' Brown said.

There have been 23 injuries or deaths associated with the hazard nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

After the fire, Bloyer went to the dealership where she had purchased the used truck and bed liner and told the staff there what had happened.

Scott Rebrook, a sales representative at Hamilton Pontiac-Cadillac, said he had never given much thought to the warning on plastic bed liners, but he does now.

"It's news that needs to be told,'' Rebrook said. He said he now tells customers about the danger, even with the printed warning.

Government and industry groups recommend filling approved gas cans on the ground.

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