National Wildfire Coordinating Group

2020 WOR Day 2: Fuel Geysering Lessons Learned

By the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center

Rag over fuel capBrushing Project - 2014

While working on a brushing project, a hand crew member was injured when saw fuel sprayed onto his face and into his eyes.

Lesson from Report: “If the fuel is suspected to be pressurized, open the fuel cap while holding a rag—or other covering—over it. Hold the saw away from the face and look away while opening the fuel cap.”


Firefighter's shirt front viewWillow Peak Fire - 2015

After cooling for 10 minutes, the saw would not start. He raised the chainsaw and twisted the tool-less cap of the gas tank. The tank was pressurized, which caused gas to spew out as a shooting stream with an associated vapor cloud. The gas saturated him and established a path of fuel that led to the burning snag.

Second- and third-degree burns on his face, upper torso, arms, and airway.

From Report: “We continue to learn the hard way. There is a lack of recognition within the firefighting community of prior incidents. A report of a fatality or serious injury can intensify the circulation of knowledge more than a “near miss” report.”


Pioneer Fire - 2016

 Saw “seemed like it was out of fuel.” Sawyer walked away from the fireline and opened the cap. Fuel geysered and sprayed the sawyer and his chainsaw. The sawyer’s quick reaction of using his gloved hand to block the geyser protected his face, but fuel along the bottom of his arm and inside his Nomex shirt ignited.

Second degree burns to lower arm.

From Report: “We read the Lessons Learned Center’s postings, but before this, I really didn’t pay much attention to them. I will now take them more seriously.”


The sawyer's gloved hand and chaps soaked in saw gas from the fuel geyser incident.Brushing Project - 2020

Suspicious of a vapor-lock, he set the saw aside for continued cooling. Several minutes later, the sawyer cautiously opened the saw’s fuel tank – a geyser occurred. Sawyer had anticipated the geyser and was able to reduce the volatility by careful placement of his hand over the fuel cap as he opened it. Even so, this incident still resulted in his (gloved) hand and chaps becoming soaked in saw gas.

From Report: “When I eventually chose to open the fuel tank with the intention of inspecting both the fuel and the filter, I was cognizant of the potential for a fuel-geyser. This awareness was due to repeated discussions of this hazard over the last few years. Thanks to the repeated LLC discussions, I have developed a habit of covering the fuel cap with a gloved hand when opening.

Discussion:  How can you turn lessons into learning?


Study the lessons. Take ACTION. Cover the cap.


Week of Remembrance
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Aug 2023

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