A woman, T. Sarifhla, 25, sustained 60% burns in the 1.25pm incident at a petrol station at Setapak Indah here.
Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Operations chief Samsol Maarif Saibani said the victim was refuelling her car when her handphone rang.
“She was believed to have opened the left passenger door to retrieve her handphone while her other hand was grasping the nozzle of the fuel pump,” he told Bernama.
He said the victim’s movement caused fuel vapour to enter the car and react with the radiation from the handphone igniting a fire and engulfing her.
Asked whether the handphone was a clone, he said it did not matter whether the set was original or cloned.
“Both emit radiation and there is no difference in the level of radiation when the mobile phone is being answered or used for WhatsApp or sending messages.
“When refuelling, one must always remember to switch off the car engine and firmly close its doors and windows.
“The department has found consumers to be indifferent and slack in remembering the rules which we call 3L – lalai, lupa, leka (careless, forgetful, indifferent) while at the petrol station.
“Tuesday’s incident should serve as a lesson to all of us. If you really need to answer the phone, go into the petrol station’s store or find an enclosed area.
“But it is still better to wait until you are out of the area,” he said, adding, the case was the first fire involving a handphone.
He also suggested that motorists keep a fire extinguisher with a capacity of 1-3kg inside their vehicle as a precaution.
Meanwhile, Skudai Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Electrical Engineering Senior Lecturer Dr Kamaludin Mohamad Yusof attributed the incident to the electromagnetic field (EMF) produced when the handphone’s signal is connected to the telecommunication company’s substation system.
“This EMF will trigger the fire because it is very sensitive to fuel,” he said.
Kamaludin said heat from the weather could also have rendered the EMF more sensitive causing a counter reaction and sparking a fire in the victim’s handphone.
“If the weather is hot, vapour would be produced from the gas at the petrol station and EMF will react with it to cause a fire,” he said.
On whether it was necessary to switch off the telecommunication network system at petrol stations to avoid similar incidents, he said it would be difficult to do so.
“This is because the network system does not provide coverage to the petrol station alone but more widely beyond the vicinity.
“Switching it is only appropriate at military areas as this is to ensure that no individuals or enemies can penetrate the system at the location,” he added.