State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci reminds all Marylanders to use appropriate safety precautions when using fuel-fired appliances that connect to propane or natural gas.  “Injuries and fatalities resulting from an explosion involving liquid and vapor fuels such as propane and natural gas are always a concern. It is necessary to maintain cylinders, fuel lines, connections and the appliances using the fuels to protect against leaks”, stated Fire Marshal Geraci.  “It is imperative that manufacturer’s instructions are adhered to in order to protect ourselves from needless injuries and/or death”. 

Unfortunately, four lives have been lost in five separate incidents in 2014, where a fire and/or explosion occurred involving propane or natural gas in Maryland.  On February 19, 2014, an 8 year-old boy was killed when falling bricks from the side of a row house in Baltimore City fell on him as he was returning home from school.  It was determined a natural gas explosion occurred inside the occupied dwelling causing the wall to collapse.   On May 15, 2014, a propane leak occurred at a commercial business in Silver Run, Carroll County and caused a 38 year-old female employee to receive 1st & 2nd degree burns to 40% of her body when an explosion occurred in the crawl space below the floor.  She continues to receive treatments for her injuries.  On October 10, 2014, an 82 year-old female occupant at her home in Finksburg, Carroll County succumbed to injuries received after a failure occurred with a wall mounted propane fueled space heater in the basement.  On October 24, 2014, an 87 year-old female in Denton, Caroline County received blunt force trauma injuries after an explosion occurred inside her residence where propane supplied appliances were in use.  On November 8, 2014, a 56 year-old male sustained explosion related injuries when his 12’ x 18’ shed exploded after entering the structure in Westminster, Carroll County.  A propane space heater attached to an exterior LPG tank was found in the area of origin.  The victim died three days later at Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center from his injuries.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal is extremely concerned about the safety of Maryland’s citizens. 

The following guidelines are provided to assist Marylander’s with the proper use and care of these fuel fired appliances:

• Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders are subject to recertification twelve years from the date of manufacture and every 5 years after that recertification.

• Properly maintained cylinders can last several years when protected from exterior damage such as dents, dings, and areas where rust can build up and weaken the tank.

• When transporting a tank for exchange or refueling, secure it in an upright position in a well ventilated area of the vehicle. 

• Check connections with a simple water and liquid soap mixture and apply it with a spray bottle.  If large bubbles form, immediately shut off the supply valve and have the connections tightened and/or repaired.

• Propane and natural gas have an odorant (Ethyl Mercaptan) added to allow for easy determination of a leak.  The odorant provides the distinctive ‘rotten egg’ smell, which enables people to detect leaks in the system.

• If you smell the odorant, immediately extinguish open flames and smoking materials.  Do not operate electronic appliances or electric switches as these devices could produce a spark and ignite the fuel vapors.

• Evacuate the area and call 911 from a safe location to report a significant gas leak.

• Ensure the system is thoroughly checked by a qualified service technician prior to use.

• Yellow flames and soot build-up are indicators of gas burning inefficiently, which can then produce excessive carbon monoxide (CO).  ‘CO’ is colorless and odorless, and lethal in low doses over an extended period or high doses in a short period.  Install CO detectors in structures where fuel burning appliances are located.

• Please follow all manufacturers’ instructions when operating fuel burning appliances in order to allow the systems to operate efficiently and to protect loved ones from potential serious injuries.