Kerosene sold at a Windsor Mill convenience store between Jan. 23 and Feb. 5 was contaminated with gasoline, creating an “imminent fire risk,” the Baltimore County Fire Department said Wednesday.
The contaminated kerosene was sold at the Shell station and Dash-In convenience store at 8200 Liberty Road. Dash-In estimates 46 customers purchased clear kerosene during the time period, according to Brooke Rieman, risk manager for Wills Group, the Dash-In parent company.
Using gasoline in devices, such a space heaters, that are designed to be fueled by kerosene is known to cause fire and other hazards, fire officials said. Ed McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said mixing kerosene and gasoline can be “an extremely dangerous situation.”
As of Wednesday afternoon no incidents related to the sale of the contaminated kerosene had been reported, said Elise Armacost, a fire department spokeswoman.
Emergency management officials in Maryland sent an emergency alert to cellphones in the area at about 1:40 p.m. Wednesday, bearing the message, “Do not use kerosene from Shell 8200 Liberty Rd MD sold between Jan 23 thru Feb 5 return it.”
McDonough said the alert was sent throughout Baltimore County at the request of county officials. Some individuals in other jurisdictions, such as Baltimore city, might have gotten the alert if they were near the county, depending on their location relative to cell towers that serve Baltimore County.
“The life-safety issue is what would bring something to the level of an alert,” McDonough said.
Armacost said the county is “extremely selective” in deciding when to use the Integrated Public Alert & Warning Systems, or IPAWS, but “decided it was important” in this case.
Baltimore County has a memorandum of understanding with MEMA and IPAWS that allows the county to use the system independently, but there are “one or two logistical steps” before the county gets final approval from the federal government to use it independently, Armacost said. The alert regarding the contaminated kerosene was sent through MEMA rather than Baltimore County, because of a technical error with the county’s system, Armacost said, but there were “no delays” working with the agency.
Ryan Casey, the department of chemistry chairperson at Towson University, said gasoline-contaminated kerosine is dangerous because gasoline is more volatile than kerosine.
“Gasoline easily forms a lot of combustible vapors at room temperature,” Casey said. “If a heater is ignited, the vapors are more likely to ignite, in which case the whole device can explode.”
Rieman said in a statement said that Dash-In is “standing by” to assist with safe disposal of the unused kerosene product and would offer refunds with a proof of purchase. Anyone looking to contact the company may call 240-316-4939.
Jim Healy, who is listed as the contact person for Wills Group, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.