Tickets to get $2.38-per-gallon gas in Lower Burrell were gone in 45 minutes

Margie Shutack of Tarentum got to Lower Burrell three hours early to buy gas at a BP station Wednesday for a special event featuring $2.38 a gallon for regular unleaded.

“It pays to be first,” said Shutackwho needed to fill up three-quarters of her tank.

She led a line of cars in a nearby shopping center parking lot that snaked around traffic cones waiting for their turn to be directed to the BP at Leechburg and Wildlife Lodge roads.

Although he wasn’t first, Chris Pawlik, 28, of Lower Burrell was happy to be in line.

An Uber driver, Pawlik waited in his Nissan Altima with his daughter, Sophia, and his Yorkie, Snickers.

He expected to save about $50 as the car’s tank typically takes about $80 in gas.

The low gas price, which was the national average in mid-January 2021, was courtesy of Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania, a conservative nonprofit group that staged the event to show how high gas prices and inflation are impacting people.

The group absorbed the difference in the cost of the gas, which was offered to the first 150 cars in line.

Lower Burrell police asked customers to line up in the Hillcrest Shopping Center, which is across Leechburg Road from the gas station. Volunteers from the nonprofit gave cars a ticket and directed them to wait in line.

Tickets for the event were sold out by 10:15 am — 45 minutes before the event started.

“I had one lady from the (Pittsburgh) North Shore who was turned away who was not real happy,” said Tom Haluscak of Lower Burrell. He and his wife, Maria, volunteered to direct traffic in the shopping center parking lot.

One disgruntled driver, who arrived before 11 am but after all of the tickets were gone, yelled: “That’s false advertising! It’s supposed to run from 11 to 1.”

Haluscak noted that, despite the drivers who were unhappy to not get a ticket, “It wasn’t bad — everybody lined up straight.”

Mary Cirucci, coalitions director for Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania, called the event “super.”

“It shows how much cheap gas means to people,” she said.

Wednesday’s high temperatures weren’t kind to the motorists who arrived hours early to get their tickets and place in line. They had to wait several hours in a treeless parking lot with temperatures reaching the upper 80s and low 90s.

“I had someone tell me their gas tank was on ‘E,’ and I told them I wouldn’t let the car run,” Haluscak said.

Loren Banks, an Avonmore native, had just arrived from North Dakota to reach her mother’s home in North Versailles, then drove to Lower Burrell to get the cheap gas.

“This is old Betsy,” she said pointing to her tan sedan. “She’s here because she needs some juice.”

Banks said she was on empty and shut off her car and jumped out with her pit bull, Sasha. She had water, but a neighboring car gave her more water.

As she stood in the parking lot with Sasha, Banks exclaimed, “We conquered.”

Lower Burrell police and volunteers directed traffic from the shopping center to the BP.

“We’re making it work,” police Chief John Marhefka said.

City Councilman David Stoltz said he was happy there weren’t major disruptions of traffic, and the businesses in Burrell Plaza were not affected.

Tammy Bartley, BP gas station manager, said the event went well.

“Traffic flowed nice, and we had a lot of happy cars,” she said.

The low price event event wasn’t the only excitement at the gas station on Wednesday.

A small fire broke out at one of the pumps about 5 pm, according to Lower Burrell Volunteer Fire Co. No. 3 First Assistant Chief Brennan Sites. Heavy storms that rolled through the region knocked over the pump, causing the blaze.

The store’s safety system activated and extinguished the fire just as crews arrived, Sites said.

The station remained closed Wednesday night, with caution tape wrapped around the pumps.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, or via Twitter .

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