Police: Dubuque man doused gas pump, lit it on fire - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Police: Dubuque man doused gas pump, lit it on fire

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Richard Huffman, 45, is in the Dubuque County Jail on a first-degree arson charge Richard Huffman, 45, is in the Dubuque County Jail on a first-degree arson charge
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

A Dubuque man allegedly doused a gas pump in fuel Wednesday night and lit it on fire, according to police.

Richard Huffman, 45, faces a first-degree arson charge and is in the Dubuque County Jail on a $50,000 cash bond.

It happened around 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Oky Doky gas station on West First Street in downtown Dubuque.

Nobody was injured and damage was limited to one pump, but the situation was still very dangerous.

Oky Doky cashier Patty Doran learned about Wednesday night's gas pump fire as she headed into work Thursday.

"Very scary," she said, recalling her reaction to the news. "We're so lucky. God was with us. You can't even imagine what could've happened."

Oky Doky owner Tom Thompson said he got the call Wednesday night and rushed right over.

"Thank God nobody was hurt," Thompson said. "This is one of those things where, at the end of the day, you see a fire at a gas station, that's not a good thing, but it all worked out. Nobody got hurt."

Huffman informed the cashier he wanted to fill up a gas can. When the pump was authorized, officials say, Huffman took the nozzle, started spraying the pump with gasoline and then lit it on fire.

The cashier saw what was happening and immediately hit the emergency stop button, which shuts down all gasoline flow and electricity to the pumps. This single action kept a bad situation from getting much, much worse.

"(The) product burned out pretty quick," Thompson said, "thanks to the fire department being here. Just stellar performance."

He said police and fire officials arrived on the scene within three minutes of the incident. Firefighters put out the remaining flames.

Dubuque fire chief Dan Brown said the situation was a very serious one.

"Absolutely, when you have somebody that intentionally sprays gasoline on something and tries to ignite it," Brown said. "Gasoline is very volatile and can almost be to the point of explosive, so that's a very dangerous thing. It's even fortunate that that individual who lit it didn't become involved in the fire itself."

Oky Doky was able to re-open five of its six gas pumps for business about an hour after the incident.

"Due to the nature of the design, you're able to isolate off these dispensers so you can safely push product through on the other ones, so we're very fortunate to get back up," Thompson said, adding he hopes to get the burned pump fixed in the coming weeks.

Huffman was arrested and taken to the Dubuque County Jail.

Public court records show Huffman has a long history of treatment for mental illness and substance abuse.

He faced another first degree arson charge in 1998, and the court found him not guilty due to his mental health condition. He then spent some 13 years in treatment facilities.

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