Today in fire history: automotive service station gas explosion kills one

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on May 23, 2012

On May 23, 1996, an explosion and subsequent fire occurred at an abandoned automotive service station in downtown Portland, Maine.  The blast killed one, injured three more, and caused extensive damage to surrounding buildings. 

An underground gasoline storage tank was in the process of being removed at the time, and an accumulation of gasoline vapors apparently ignited when a vehicle ignition was turned on, resulting in the explosion of a nearby tank.  The significant factor contributing to the loss of life in this incident is considered to be the accumulation of vapors in proximity to an ignition source while freeing a tank of flammable vapors.  In the aftermath of this event, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the State Fire Marshal’s office developed a detailed protocol to facilitate the safe removal of underground gasoline storage tanks within the state.

NFPA members can download the investigation report for free.