On Saturday, July 25, at approximately 3:55 p.m., the Pierce County Dispatch Center received a 9-1-1 call from a farmstead located 12 miles north of Rugby along ND Hwy #3 of a 61-year-old male who received severe burns from a lawnmower explosion. The Rugby Ambulance Service, Rugby Fire Department, and Pierce County Sheriff’s Department responded. Upon arrival it was discovered that the lawnmower fire had spread to a shed which contained a 1,000 gallon fuel tank storing approximately 850 gallons of gasoline. The shed was burned to the foundation and the gasoline tank was fully engulfed, with flames rising approximately 100 feet into the air. The emergency relief pressure valve to the tank vented the gasses, as it was designed, and the tank did not explode. The Rugby Fire Department allowed the fuel in the tank to burn off, while protecting other structures on the property. Approximately 4,000 gallons of water were utilized to protect structures and eventually extinguish the fuel tank.
The victim was transported to the Rugby Hospital with severe burns to his hands and arms and airlifted to a Minneapolis Burn Center for treatment. The investigation discovered that the victim was mowing the farm yard with a zero-turn mower when he pulled up to the fuel tank to refuel. When he removed the gas cap to the mower, an explosion immediately occurred from the lawnmower’s gas tank. The explosion caught the fuel tank shed on fire which led to the ignition of the 1,000 gallon fuel tank. The fire has been ruled accidental, with the cause being static electricity either between the victim’s body and the fumes from the mower’s gas tank or from the friction of removing the mower’s gas tank cap with the buildup of fumes from the mower’s gas tank. The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations assisted with the investigation.
– Josh Siegler, Sheriff
Pierce County Sheriff Department
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