The Frame Up

phoenix confidential


Well, cigarette smokers now have one thing on their side

I can't say that I expect almost anything I see in the movies to be based in reality, but I have to admit that this story diffuses one of the cooler effects around.
Petrol lit with a cigarette? Only in the movies

...if you find yourself tied up and doused in petrol don't worry if all your assailant has is a lighted cigarette: scientists have proved you won't end up as a human fireball...

(Richard Tontarski, an expert in forensic fire at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland) began looking into the problem because arson suspects frequently claim a petrol fire was started by accident. "The person claims, 'I accidentally threw gasoline on my girlfriend, she was smoking and she burst into flames*'," he said...

To find out whether this was possible, he and colleagues experimented. They dropped burning cigarettes into trays of petrol. They sprayed a fine mist of petrol at a lighted cigarette. They even used a vacuum device to produce the higher temperature (900-950C) of a cigarette being sucked. In more than 2,000 attempts the petrol did not ignite.

Dr Tontarski can only speculate why. The layer of ash on the tobacco, perhaps, or the petrol vapour convected away from the hottest part of the cigarette.

So is he in touch with Hollywood to demand it drops the explosive movie cliche? "Actually they are pretty well aware of it. They don't care."

To be honest, I can't really say that I do either. It looks too cool on film. And even though I know that nothing's likely to happen, I still don't want to see people lighting up around a gas pump. That article didn't say anything about matches and lighters.

*(emphasis mine, because really, people use that as an excuse? And expect it to work?)

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