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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