Two houses caught on fire and 3 people were injured after a propane tank exploded in East Meadow, Long Island, NY. A fire started in a house located on 7th Street. The flames reached two propane tanks that were located on the side of the house and caused a massive explosion. The fire was so intense that the house next door caught on fire as well. One person had to be hospitalized and two others were treated at the scene. It took 3 hours for the firefighters to extinguish the fire.
In the US it is estimated that there are approximatively 60 million propane-fueled devices. While the usage of propane tanks is restricted in New York City, their usage is common in the rest of New York State for heating water, heating houses and grilling. Propane explosions and propane deaths are not that common. Explosions are rare but when they occur they are extremely destructive. Injuries resulting from propane tank explosions are often severe burns.
Gas leak or BLEVE?
There are two common causes of propane explosions. The most common cause is related to gas grilling. A propane gas tank is left open and leaks in a closed gas grill. The propane released by the tank builds up in the closed space and if it is ignited or close to a flame it will cause a fire ball.
In the explosion that occurred in Long Island, the tank itself exploded after being exposed to high heat. When a propane tank is submitted to high heat the pressure inside the tank is higher than the pressure it can vent and it results in a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion or BLEVE. To prevent BLEVE, all propane tanks are equipped with a relief valve that opens automatically when the pressure inside the tank is too high. When the heat is really intense it might not be enough.
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