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How dangerous is gasoline and gas water heater

It's obviously a risk.
Water heaters and all gas appliances draw room air into the combustion chamber.... so there is equal risk using a gas oven and gas water heater... or any open flame around gasoline ... except water heaters are frequently installed in a garage where people also store fuels and work on cars.

Rule of thumb: If you can smell gasoline then the water heater can smell gasoline.... especially if the vapors build up inside enclosed garage.

The one advantage is that gasoline vapors tend to fall to the floor.
That's why they set water heaters 18 inches above floor level.
In any event... there is NO way to guarantee safety when water heater is exposed to flammable vapors.

Vapors can come from paints, glues, solvents, and fuels.
Open the garage door and let in fresh air to help prevent problems.
Always use approved storage cans for gasoline.
Turn off water heater burner when using any solvent-based paint, adhesive, or fuel.
For example WD40 is very flammable. Aresol paint. Contact cement.

They make power vent water heaters that draw air from outside the home.
Power vent water heater that draws air from otside
Older water heaters had air intake located directly on front of combustion chamber.
So gasoline  vapor could easily enter the combustion chamber and be ignited by the flame... and people would hear a whooph sound and think it was funny... until the whooph ignited a room filled with flammable vapor.

FVIR systems
Newer water heaters after around 2008 are made differently.
New heaters have the FVIR system or Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistance.
RESISTANCE is not a guarantee.

The new water heaters are generally designed to suppress the flame spread once vapor is ignited.
So they don't really stop the ignition of flammable vapor inside the water heater, but instead they stop the fire from spreading into your home or into the room.... usually this works, but not always.

Different water heater companies use different techniques for accomplishing the same FVIR task.
Each company has gone through a series of different designs and there is no one design that is uniform so some of what you have depends on the brand and age of water heater with more recent water heaters offering better protection.

Modern FVIR systems cause the water heater to lock out.
This usually causes need for repair from major to minor part replacement, or replacement of whole heater, again depending on age of water heater and brand.

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