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How can I store petrol or diesel safely?

The simple answer is that the only way to do this is in the tank of your car. That’s the advice from the Fire Service in the UK.

What is wrong with storing fuel in containers?

Petrol and diesel are highly flammable liquids. This means they can easily start a fire that could destroy your property. Keeping petrol or diesel in closed containers can also create a risk of explosion. That risk is minimised by the design of vehicles, but plastic or metal containers can create problems. The biggest danger, though, is getting the fuel in and out of the containers and into your vehicle’s tank.

Decanting even a small amount of petrol or diesel in an enclosed space is a bad idea, as the fumes can fill that space very quickly. A spark or naked flame can then cause ignition – and an explosion and fireball. Just turning a light switch on in a closed garage filled with petrol fumes can be enough to cause disaster.

A cautionary tale about decanting petrol…

An attempt by a mum from York to help out her daughter, who had run out of petrol during the height of the run on the pumps at the end of March 2012, ended in a shocking tragedy. The woman decided to decant some of the petrol she had stored in a container into another container for her daughter to put in her car. Not realising the dangers, she did this in her kitchen with the cooker on, as she was cooking tea at the time. Petrol fumes filled the warm kitchen and then ignited when they reached the cooker, causing a fireball. The woman then dropped the glass jug of petrol she was holding, and this ignited, immediately setting fire to her clothes and leaving her with 40% burns. She survived but her injuries may need weeks, possibly months of treatment.

Advice from the Fire Service in the UK

The official advice about storing petrol or diesel in containers is DON’T. Instead keep your car topped up more frequently so that it is almost full most of the time.

If you choose to keep some petrol or diesel in storage, whether it’s a backup for your vehicle, or fuel for something like a petrol lawnmower or strimmer, remember the legal limits:

In addition, the Fire Service recommends that you treat the fuel with great care:

Storing fuel:

Handling fuel

You may think it would be a nightmare to not be able to use your car if a strike, or other crisis, lead to a fuel shortage, and be tempted to store petrol over the legal limits. But the cost may be your home, or even your life – is storing petrol or diesel really worth it?

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