Not too Smart: Woman sets car on fire at German gas station | News | DW | 04.10.2018
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Not too Smart: Woman sets car on fire at German gas station

A woman in Germany caused a stir at a gas station after filling her car's air intake with fuel. When she drove away the car burst into flames. No one was injured in the incident but the woman may be charged with arson.

A woman in northern Germany is lucky to be alive after her car burst into flames at a gas station in Langenhorn near Hamburg. The incident occurred Wednesday when she inadvertently filled the air intake system of her car with fuel rather than the gas tank. The fuel the woman pumped into the air intake ran directly into the motor compartment, where the fire began.

The woman, Maryam M., had just gotten the car the day before and was traveling with her father. She was unfamiliar with the Smart ForTwo two-seater and thus unaware that both the caps covering entry to the air intake and the fuel tank are nearly identical on older models. After realizing she had filled the wrong intake, she proceeded to then fill the fuel tank. She paid for the fuel, and ignoring the smoke coming from the motor compartment, began driving away when her father "screamed that we needed to get out."

Quick thinking averts disaster

Luckily, a quick-thinking gas station owner and a fireman who was there by chance were able to gain control of the situation, using four full fire extinguishers to put out the flames, but not before the automobile was irreparably damaged. Alirez R., the gas station owner, said, "I just did what I was taught: cut the power, get people out of the area and contact the fire department." He then helped put out the fire.

Maryam M., who said she was terribly sorry about causing the dangerous situation, was also informed by police that she may face charges for arson. She pleaded that she didn't start the fire intentionally and also asked why a company like Mercedes-Benz, which produces the Smart, would not mark the air intake and the fuel cell cap more clearly, saying the air intake "looks just like the gas tank door."

Images of the air intake and gas tank caps on older Smart Fortwo models

Older versions of Mercedes-Benz's Smart Fortwo feature confusingly similar air intake and gas tank caps

Indeed, she is not the first person to have confused the two inlets. A number of people have done so, with some, like Maryam M., having watched in horror as their cars burst into flames. Older versions of the car feature two identical round inlets, one on either side of the car's rear quarter panel. Smart has since changed the air intake design thus making it clear that it is not to be filled with fuel.

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