Iowa Farm Mom Urges Gasoline Safety

Ensure Gasoline Cans Have Flame-Mitigation Devices to Prevent Deadly Explosions

Susan Payne
By  Susan Payne , DTN Social Media and Young Farmer Editor
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Christopher Allsup, 10, from Winterset, Iowa, died in 2013 when a plastic gas container exploded near him. (Photo courtesy of Jane Allsup)

Outdated portable gasoline containers are dangerous and can be life-threatening. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission now requires all new gas cans and other fuel containers to have flame-mitigation devices.


OMAHA (DTN) -- One gallon of gasoline is estimated to possess the explosive force of 14 sticks of dynamite. For that reason, it is important to always ensure gasoline is handled safely to prevent a deadly accident from occurring, according to an Iowa farm safety advocate.

Jane Allsup, a farm mom from Winterset, Iowa, lost her 10-year-old son, Christopher, in 2013 when an outdated portable gasoline container exploded as he attempted to rekindle a fire. Following that tragic accident, Allsup has worked to educate others about the importance of handling gasoline safely.

Christopher tried newspapers and matches to restart a fire before using gasoline on damp, smoldering logs. Unknowingly, he stood in a cloud of highly flammable vapors escaping from an old, unsafe container, and the vapors ignited when contacted by the ember.

In a joint effort, the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, and the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety are sharing Christopher's story and advocating for public safety.

Older gasoline containers -- tens of millions of them -- line the shelves of rural and suburban America. And thousands of Americans are treated each year for burn injuries related to gasoline, the organizations stated in a news release.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) now requires all new gas cans and other fuel containers to have flame-mitigation devices, known as flame arrestors, the news release stated. A flame arrestor is a mesh screen built into the spout that allows gasoline to flow out of a portable gas container but will dissipate flashback flames and prevent an explosion.

A flame arrestor could have saved Christopher's life, the news release stated.

"The dangers of gasoline are often unknown or underestimated by those handling it," said Allsup. "People don't realize they are standing in a highly flammable vapor cloud. This can lead to tragedy, particularly in the agricultural community where onsite fueling is common and where youth are often involved in handling and using gasoline."

Since that tragic day in 2013, Allsup and The Legacy of Christopher Allsup Foundation, founded in 2017, have been committed to telling Christopher's story and urging safe gasoline handling practices to reduce harm and death.

Each year, The Legacy of Christopher Allsup hosts a gasoline can exchange to educate the public on highly flammable vapors that can easily escape the cans, providing new, updated cans with flame arrestors, in exchange for the old ones.

The next gas can exchange is 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, July 20, in Perry, Iowa. Supplies are limited, so the organization is exchanging cans, one per household, on a first-come, first-serve basis. The police and fire parking lots where the exchange is happening are located at 908 Willis Avenue in Perry.

In addition to the gas can exchanges, Allsup has created an activity booklet to educate children on gas safety featuring Sammy the Safety Can. Taking this idea a step further, Allsup has also wrote a children's book about Sammy the Safety Can and a boy named C.W., in remembrance of Christopher.

"In the book, a young boy comes across a safety can named Sammy, they stick together and go on adventures and ensure they are safe aware," Allsup said.

Christopher's story and more information about gasoline handling safety can be found at the Telling the Story Project website. The project features personal accounts, embedded with prevention messages, of families and individuals directly affected by injuries and close calls:….

For more information about the not-for-profit Legacy of Christopher Allsup Foundation Inc. and available books, visit….

General questions and information can also be answered via the foundation's Facebook page:….

Here are some additional safety tips when handling gasoline:

-- Gasoline is highly flammable, and therefore can cause life-threatening injuries and death when improperly handled.

-- Use gasoline outdoors only and store in cool, well-ventilated areas.

-- Make sure your gas cans have a fuel arrestor to prevent flashback.

-- Never add lighter or starter fluid to hot or warm coals.

-- Never use accelerants such as gasoline, kerosene or aerosol sprays to start a campfire.

-- Keep cans in the shade to avoid extreme temperature changes. To relieve pressure from a gas can, burp your gas can to balance internal and external pressure.

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Susan Payne

Susan Payne
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