Gasoline theft leads to Gambell fire

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

NOME (AP) A cigarette lighter used by someone apparently trying to steal gasoline in Gambell last week lit a fire that burned a four-wheeler and threatened the community's fuel supply.

Village public safety officer and village police officers were able to extinguish the flames before they reached nearby 55-gallon fuel barrels and 13 3,000-gallon fuel tanks.

Gambell is a village of about 650 on St. Lawrence Island's northwest cape. The Bering Sea village is 200 miles southwest of Nome.

Troopers said a 20-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl were stealing gas Friday from a 55-gallon fuel barrel to fill an all-terrain vehicle.

While pumping the stolen fuel, one woman used a cigarette lighter to check how much fuel was in the ATV tank. The flame ignited the fuel being pumped. Fuel then spilled onto the ATV, onto absorbent fuel-spill cleanup material and on the women.

Clothing on both women briefly caught fire. They were able to extinguish the flames on their clothes before running away from the scene.

Troopers said if the fuel barrels and tanks had caught on fire, the village's entire fuel supply would have been destroyed.

Troopers said both woman face possible charges of criminally negligent burning, criminal mischief and theft.

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