Propane blast tears through HR home; tank leak blamed


News staff writer

February 21, 2007

Hood River Fire Department officials believe that a leaky propane tank caused the violent explosion inside a Columbia Avenue townhouse on Sunday.

No one was injured in the blast that literally lifted a section of the roof near the kitchen. The residents were sitting in a rear living room about 8 p.m. when the explosion occurred. According to reports, they were shocked by the blast and the extensive damage it caused.

“This could have been much worse,” said Assistant Chief Devon Wells. “The occupants were not hurt, the house is still standing and none of their pets were injured.”

He said propane explosions have historically been catastrophic, sometimes leveling entire city blocks.

Wells said firefighters arrived at the scene within four minutes of receiving the call for help. They found no flames but did evacuate the occupants after discovering structural damage. Wells said no problems were found with the oven or the natural gas line so further investigation into the cause of the explosion was needed.

He said the family then mentioned that they had brought a propane tank from the barbecue inside the house. They had believed the container was empty so had abandoned the idea of grilling and made alternate dinner plans.

The container was still in the open position when the family placed it directly on top of a ventilation system register.

“Once we heard about the propane bottle on the vent, the rest of the events started falling into place,” said Wells.

Investigation crews concluded that propane leaked from the open bottle and settled into the piping of the vent. Since the gas was heavier than air, it sought out the lowest point in the system.

When the gas furnace turned on, it ignited the gas and caused the explosion.

The kitchen took most of the force and heat but vent system damage was found from the basement garage to the third floor master bedroom. According to Wells, the ceiling was separated from the walls in that section of the house.

“The extent of the damage leaves it hard to believe that none of the occupants were injured. They happened to be in the right place at the right time, otherwise the story could have been different,” he said.

He said the fire department and Hood River City Police worked together to find a home for the displaced residents until repairs could be made.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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