New risk factors identified for starting fires at gas stations: being skinny, female.
Fire experts said that women are more often involved in static electricity fires than men. They said women are more likely to return to their cars during fueling to escape the cold—most of the fires occur in cold, dry weather—or tend to a child. Moreover, their stockings are more likely to collect an electrostatic charge.
A slim woman like Mrs. Shager is typical in these cases, said Robert Renkes, an executive vice president of the Petroleum Equipment Institute. Mr. Renkes analyzed reports of the 170 static electricity service-station fires from 1992 to 2006. Seventy-eight percent of the victims were female, he said, “and they were skinny.” He said that heavier people, and men in general, are more likely to hoist themselves out by grasping the car door, thus grounding any charge they may be carrying before reaching for the nozzle.