Letter Re: Advice in Storing Extra Gasoline in Cans at Home

Thanks so much for Survival Blog. It’s been an invaluable resource to me and my family as we prepare for what’s coming. This is the first time I’ve ever emailed you, but it’s with a question that I haven’t been able to find a good answer to elsewhere. I’m hoping you’ll share your advice.

With the price of gas so low right now, I’m thinking it would be prudent to stock up. I’d like to have some on hand at my house to run the generator for small events like snowstorms and such, but I’d also like to have extra gas around to take with me should the need to G.O.O.D. arises (to extend the range of my bug out vehicle). My problem is that I’m in a typical suburban neighborhood so my only option for gas storage is really my garage. I don’t have room to build a shed far away from the house. On top of that, I have a [natural gas] water heater with a pilot light in the garage. It’s 18 inches off the ground on a wooden platform (supposedly to keep it away from heavier-than-air gas fumes) but it still makes me uncomfortable.

My question is this: Is it safe to store 20 gallons or so of gas (treated with Sta-Bil) in approved 5 gallon plastic containers in my garage? If not, what is the safest way to store gas? I’ve thought about putting the plastic containers in a small plastic storage unit in my backyard, but my house gets southern exposure so the storage unit will heat up a lot during the summer months, which I know is probably not safe either. Any ideas? Thanks and blessings, – Alex H.

JWR Replies: First and foremost: Do not store any gasoline in can in an attached garage! As I illustrated my novel “Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse”, ounce-for-ounce, fuel-air mixtures can be some of the most potent explosives imaginable.

If you live on a postage stamp-sized city lot and don’t have room for a detached shed to store gasoline, then your best bet is to ask a friend that lives outside of city limits–or at least on a much larger lot with room for a detached shed–to store some gas cans for you. But there are some clever alternatives for someone that doesn’t mind a bit of digging and has basic carpentry skills. The first is digging a concealed cache for some gas cans, covered by a stout platform (deck/walkway), or wide paving stones (often available free on Craigslist). Another method that requires a less stout “lid” is buried cache under a Japanese arched bridge. (One of my consulting clients did this when he re-landscaped his suburban back yard. The cache has a sheet of marine grade plywood for a lid, covered by gravel. The bridge and the lid beneath it can easily be moved to access the cans. Make it look decorative and “Zen”, and few will ever guess what lies beneath.) Yet another option is to build what looks like a typical raised planter box, but make it actually a tray with soil only 3 or 4 inches deep. That way you’ll only have to dig a trench for the cans that is one foot deep. Just be advised that from all reports storing gas cans underground works well only if your property has a low water table and only if you use plastic fuel cans. (My favorites, Scepter cans, are sadly now banned from civilian sale (but not ownership) in the US, but are still available in Canada.) OBTW, don’t try an underground gas storage approach with steel “Jerry” or “Blitz”-type cans. Even if you put them up on blocks and paint them with asphault emulsion, they will eventually rust.