Firefighters said Matthew Erhorn, a SUNY New Paltz student, received minor burns at a Mobil station near the New York State Thurway (Interstate 87) Thursday night.
"I'm very surprised," Erhorn said.
He shouldn't have been. There's a sign at the pumps at the New Paltz gas station warning that cell phones should be turned off for safety while pumping gas.
Firefighters believe the cell phone ignited vapors coming from the car's fuel tank as it was being filled.
It doesn't take much of a charge to ignite gasoline vapors, New Paltz fire chief Patrick Koch told WCBS-AM's Peter Haskell. "Anything, really. Women's nylon stockings when they get out of a vehicle, that can cause a spark, too."
That's why motorists are told "don't use their cell phones when they're pumping gas. Really, it's deadly," Koch said.
The fire was immediately put out by the service station's fire suppression system, using an oxygen-killing powder. That covered other cars in the gas station parking lot as well as nearby trees.
The station will remain closed until the system can be recharged.
New Paltz is about 75 miles north of New York City.