Rockford Fire Marshal Mike Reus

Firefighters take on explosive situation in propane training

September 20, 2012 // 0 Comments

‘Catastrophic’ situations covered by BETH ALTENA Rockford Fire Marshal Mike Reus said he would guess a recent explosion that blew a trailer home apart likely involved a propane fire and that cases where even stick-built homes are literally destroyed in an explosion are also likely caused by a propane leak that becomes ignited. Area firefighters were trained on handling what the Michigan Propane Gas Association (MPGA) called ‘catastrophic situations’ on Thursday, August 30 at the Cedar Spring Fire Department. The event included increasingly difficult propane fires with flames shooting more than 60 feet into the air. During the training a nearby tree was accidently ignited and had to be hosed down. Reus said understanding the nature of propane is an important skill for firefighters and the “big, big” thing about propane is that it is heavier than air and will sink and pool rather than rise and disperse. The potential explosion from such a leak can indeed be considered catastrophic. “If you see a house just blown clear off the foundation, it is probably propane,” Reus said. He noted that in the case of the Squire office, a propane leak would doubtless go to the lower level of the building, where most homes have furnaces and other mechanicals located. Reus said in the case of a home closed off for the winter, even a minute leak over time would result in a catastrophic explosion. He noted that even the flicking on of a lightswitch—for instance in the middle of the night when a person gets up to use the bathroom—would be enough to ignite an explosion. “Even turning on a light results in a small electric spark that people never see,” he described. Reus said propane is a mixture of chemicals that is, in part, a byproduct of the processing of gasoline. LPG stands for Liquid Petroleum Gas and he said in its earliest uses the compound was used as a burning source for heat. He explained that propane here in the United States may differ from the mixture used in other countries, making the handling and use of the gas a tricky matter. During the controlled propane fires, teams of first responders practiced techniques to subdue flaming tanks with extremely hot fires. The techniques […]