Did you know that you can be issued a citation by the Bureau of Land Management if your fuel is stored directly on the playa or too close to your trailer? Yes, it is at the BLM’s discretion to cite you for any fuel storage issues, which would bring law enforcement into your camp, potentially leading to unwelcomed searches. Please help us help you prevent these avoidable interactions. Consider your impact!
This post is part of the Consider Your Impact series
This post is part of the Consider Your Impact series
Our community takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, and properly storing fuel is paramount to preventing leaks and protecting the playa. Amazingly, improper fuel storage makes up almost 70% of the LNT issues we come across. Seriously, 70%! Not only is Leaving No Trace one of the 10 Principles and an ethic ingrained in our culture, it is also mandated by the Bureau of Land Management through our event permit.
The photos shown below were taken over the past few years by our LNT Outreach teams, comprised of Earth Guardian and Black Rock Ranger volunteers. These teams cruise around the city looking for any LNT issues and will help you fix them. You have 24 hours to fix a problem before we have to notify BLM. Help us help you NOW as you’re prepping for the Burn by following these five tips for doing it right, so you can leave no trace, and avoid citations!
- Contain your fuel
- Don’t store next to a heat source
- Keep fuel away from RV/trailers and non-fuel items
- Limit fuel stored in camps
- Avoid fuel-vehicle collisions!
- All stored fuel containers, regardless of size or type of fuel (gas, diesel, kerosene), need secondary containment that can hold 110% of the largest container.
1) Contain Your Fuel
Don’t put your fuel cans directly on the playa! Secondary containment can be simple: use storage bins to hold your five gallon cans. For storage of five gallon containers, that’s 5.5 gallons of space needed in case of a leak. Even if the can is empty, put it back in its secondary containment.
Here are photos of excellent secondary containment:
Secondary containment is this simple! The industry-standard for fuel secondary containment in the photo on the right. The only thing that we’d fix with this to is move the can towards the center of the containment, and move it 10 ft away from non-fuel items.
Here are some examples of what NOT to do:
Even though the fuel is off of the ground, chances are that the truck bed is not completely sealed and fuel leaks could still get on the playa. Fuel can be stored in your truck bed if it has secondary containment or if it is sealed.
The fuel containers are not directly on the ground, but the lids would not contain any fuel that spills nor is its volume 110% of the largest container (5.5 gallons). Also the fuel needs to be 10 ft away from non-fuel items.
The fuel is off of the ground, yes, but it’s on a mesh gate, is next to an RV, and there’s no secondary containment.
Even if this plastic bag was around the fuel container, this is still not proper containment and static from the plastic bag can cause a spark, which can ignite the fuel.
Even if you’re just setting up your camp, place fuel containers in secondary containment immediately. Leaks can happen at any point so please be proactive. Would you want to live in that shelter? The bike tips over, the cans tip over and you have…
2) Do not Store Fuel Next to a Heat Source
Do not store fuel next to generators. Just don’t. Period. We have seen a five-gallon can with gas in it, which burst from pressure built up from the heat of being next to a running generator! Here are examples of doing it wrong:
These cans are right next to a generator, under a living space of the trailer above. They are over the fuel tank of the truck and don’t have any secondary containment!
Triple the trouble and with no secondary containment!!!
It is good to have generators elevated slightly from the playa but don’t store fuel next to your generator and always have secondary containment for your fuel. We should also feel sorry for the truck rental company whose truck stake sides are being used for this!
Don’t lock your fuel to your generator!! There are many other safer places to securely store fuel that’s not next to a heat source.
3) Do not Store Fuel Under or Next to a Trailer/RV/Tent and Keep Fuel 10 ft Away From Anything Else
Ideally, fuel should be stored in the shade — it keeps the temperature lower than in full sun. However, containers designed to hold fuel can be stored in full sun as long as it is only filled to 80% of its capacity. So don’t overfill your cans — fuel expands with heat — use the fill lines on the container to know where 80% is. And store your fuel in secondary containment 10 ft from anything else.
This fuel does have secondary containment, but it is right next to a tent (sigh!), covered partially by a carpet (wick!), and right behind a car (very easy to run over).
The fuel does have secondary containment; however, it’s right next to a tent and is below an exhaust fan.
These cans are too close to the tent again! Not sure who wants to live in that tent of doom but… Also these cans do not have secondary containment. Oww, and the can in the background has containment that’s too small.
These cans are under a trailer (yikes!) and have no containment. It may seem counterintuitive to store fuel in the sun, but it’s safer to store it there, filled only to 80% capacity, than under a living container. Look — there’s an empty bin to put the fuel in once it’s moved!
4) Do not Have More Than 110 Gallons of Fuel Stored Within Your Camp!
This amount applies to fuel that is not in use and is regardless of the size of your camp. This doesn’t apply to fuel inside of or feeding a generator. Now that there are fuel deliveries on playa, there is no need to store copious amounts of fuel in your camp. Here are examples of doing it wrong:
Yes, the fuel is shaded, but there is no secondary containment and there are four 55 gallon barrels (220 gallons of fuel) instead of the 110 gallons allowed.
The same rule applies for small fuel containers — no more than 110 gallons of stored fuel in a camp. These containers need secondary containment as well, and need to be stored 10 ft away from non-fuel materials.
5) Protect Your Stored Fuel From Vehicle Collision!
Need we say more? DON’T STORE FUEL NEXT TO THE ROAD! Would you line your sidewalks and driveway at home with fuel? No, so don’t do it in BRC. Keep all stored fuel 10 ft away from any non-fuel items — cars, tents, bikes, and trailers.
Despite what we’ve shown you here, a LOT of Burners are doing it right. You can help us out. If you are cruising BRC and see fuel stored unsafely, find someone in the camp and (politely) let them know. You’ll be helping make their camp safer and might even save them a visit from the Compliance team or the BLM.
Proper fuel containment is a really important and relatively simple way to consider and reduce your impact on playa … take these steps and you’ll have it down, no problem.
[This post is part of our ‘Consider Your Impact’ series, where we’re telling stories that explore our community’s known and lesser-known effects on not just the Black Rock Desert itself, but the world around us as well. We hope it will raise awareness and inspire you to, well, consider your impact. Hence the name.]
Top photo: “The Great Train Wreck” by Collaborative Artisans, 2018. (Photo by Espressobuzzphoto)