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After Propane Gas Explosions, Idahoans Urged to Take Precautions

Debris from the McCall home explosion reached a 200-yard debris field. (Idaho State Police via Idaho Dept. of Insurance)
Debris from the McCall home explosion reached a 200-yard debris field. (Idaho State Police via Idaho Dept. of Insurance)
April 4, 2019

BOISE, Idaho – After two propane gas explosions in March, Idaho officials are urging residents to take precautions and stay safe.

Idaho State Fire Marshal Knute Sandahl addressed the public Wednesday with an urgent message in the wake of an explosion in McCall that left one man dead and a teenage girl critically injured.

The day before this tragedy, a similar explosion occurred in Powell Junction. That blast left an Idaho State Trooper with facial and hand burns, and an Idaho Department of Fish & Game officer with minor injuries.

Sandahl said he was "pleading with all the residents of Idaho to please install a flammable gas detector" if they use gas in their homes. Idaho State Police provided video of the extent of destruction from the McCall explosion.

"Their resource of a drone was used to take aerial photographs of the debris field," said Sandahl, referring to the video. "This debris field was scattered over 200 yards away from the blast zone."

The 200-yard distance is about two football fields. The massive fireball left a crater where the home once stood, and also damaged nearby houses.

Sandahl said heavy snow in McCall, coupled with recent warmer weather, caused snow to slide from the roof. The additional pressure on the gas regulator created a fracture inside a wall, allowing propane gas to seep into a crawlspace beneath the house.

State investigators believe the furnace eventually ignited the blast. Sandahl wants people to know how to stop this from happening in their homes.

"How can we prevent this?" he asked. "We can prevent this by, when a snow slide occurs, to clear it out right away. Create a path to your regulator, create a path to your meter. Clear off any snow that is built up on the propane tank."

He said plywood can be used to make sure snow doesn't pile up on fuel tanks, noting that even the plywood should be cleared off regularly. He also recommended that every home have adequate fire alarms, and a carbon monoxide detector.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID