Hand held propane torch exploded in my neighborhood

This morning, we heard an explosion next door, and we were told by the
police and fire department, that it was a gas torch exploding. The
plumbers were apparently working in the basement and a hand held
propane tank & torch exploded in the plumbers hand! Miraculously, no
one was hurt. The explosion was very loud and we thought a tree limb
had fallen on our house. My wife met the plumbers boss on the way out
of the street and he informed her that that was indeed what happened.
Pretty scary. The people in the house across the street from the
accident said it felt like their house had lifted off the foundation
for a moment. The plumbers stumbled out to the street and sprawled on
the grass until the paramedics arrived. One the guys shirt was torn
and he was in a daze but no other injuries. Has anyone ever heard of
this before?
-Mike
St. Louis
Reply to
mlcorson
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Given that propane in a tank is liquid I'd have thought that a burst tank in conjunction with an ignition source would make for a pretty serious local fire, not something the user would walk away from. However perhaps there was a propane or other gas leak leading to an explosive mixture which the torch ignited, that seems more consistent with a house-shaking bang.
Reply to
Newshound
========= Exactly.
More plausible scenario.
Plumber puts propane torch in tool box. Torch has slight leak or was not turned off completely. Over night the propane level in the tool box rises. Plumber opens tool box, and lights torch close to tool box so he can put his sparker back in the box. Accumulated propane and air in the tool box ignite. Tool box offers enough retention/resistance to result in a perceived explosion rather than a simple "whunf."
Anybody check to see if the toolbox that was square and about 2 cubic feet is now round and about 5 cubic feet? Is a tote tray embedded in the basement ceiling?
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ============ Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, 17 March 1814.
Reply to
F. George McDuffee
Uh, George, they outlawed the smallest refillable cylinders some years ago in PA after two of them exploded in use. These were the same size as the disposable cylinders you get in hardware stores. I had a couple of them for years.
I don't suppose there's much chance it was a refillable cylinder, but you know the hazard with those things, if you don't purge them when you refill 'em. And lots of people didn't purge them.
-- Ed Huntress
Reply to
Ed Huntress
The scenario doesn't require a refillable cylinder. I once took the torch off a disposable cylinder and noticed a slight hissing sound.... I was just really happy I heard it!
Reply to
Joe Pfeiffer
"mlcorson" wrote: (clip) propane tank & torch exploded in the plumbers hand! Miraculously, no one was hurt. (clip) The people in the house across the street from the accident said it felt like their house had lifted off the foundation for a moment. The plumbers stumbled out to the street and sprawled on
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ This has some very implausible aspects. A torch exploded *in the plumbers hand,* with an violence that seemed to lift the neightbors house off the foundation; yet, the plumber was not hurt?
Reply to
Leo Lichtman
I once lived in a house that was a replacement for a structure destroyed in a natural gas explosion. The original house lifted off the foundation and dropped down again (at an angle). The owner, who had lit the stove in the kitchen, was found in the back yard, dazed but unhurt. My next door neighbor said "I _told_ Al to fix that pipe!".
Kevin Gallimore
Reply to
axolotl
messagenews: snipped-for-privacy@4ax.com...
A cylinder needs only to be purged before it is filled for the very first time. Subsequent refills do not need a purge.
Reply to
sparky
Well, it happens I once had a discussion about this with a fishing buddy who happened to be a technician for Pargas in PA, and I asked him how air could get in those cylinders. He said that one problem is that the filler valves could be opened and people often left the empty cylinders open. Air would fill the cylinder and then they'd just put in more gas. If you do that a few times you have a bomb. Thus, whether it's an accurate description of what happens or not, the state decided after two explosions not to allow uncertified people to fill tanks. Not that you could stop it completely, but the ones refilled at home the most were the smallest ones.
That's what I'm going on. I have no direct experience with an explosion or other problem with those things. I purged mine every time I filled them. I wish I still had them.
-- Ed Huntress
Reply to
Ed Huntress
This is superstition. The headspace of a 13 oz refilliable cylinder contains about 30 milligrams of propane vapor at an ideal 1:25 fuel:air ratio, assuming maximum headspace (no liquid). The energy from combusting 30 milligrams of C3H8 doesn't even amount to a child's firecracker.
Now if a cylinder leaks 13 oz of liquid into a confined space, and happens to mix in the right proportions with air and then ignite, then you have a potential whump. But that's not a cylinder exploding.
Purging is needed to avoid overpressure in the vessel from non-condensible gases in the headspace.
Think about it. If fuel-air headspaces were such a hazard, then every lawnmower gasoline can and automobile gas tank would be a bomb. You don't see them being outlawed like a puny propane refillable.
Reply to
Richard J Kinch
You *DO KNOW*, don't you, that brass fittings are readily available for those folks who wish to fill those little cylinders from their larger propane tanks?
I've seem them advertised for sale in more than one flyer/catalog form the discount tool sales joints.
Flash
(Somehow, that moniker seems SOOooo appropriate to a thread l;ike this Sorry, I just couldn't resist))
Reply to
flash
I subscribe to the leaky tank scenario, myself. Might be the guy thought his torch was shut off but just barely had the valve cracked, he went off to take a leak or something, came back and sparked things off. If a tank truly blew up in the guy's hand, he wouldn't have it anymore! I figure, confined space + propane + spark=KaBoom! I had any number of Coleman brand tanks leak like sieves after removing from the torch head or stove, looks like they're good for one use and that's it.
Stan
Reply to
stans4
I've never had that happen and I've been using propane torches since I was twelve. I will say I'm not a plumber so I haven't used thousands of bottles. I have seen propane torches valves leak because people would turn them off too hard. Karl
Reply to
kfvorwerk
I have had a hardware-store tank leak when separated from the torch. I smelled it more than heard it, but when I held the valve end of the tank near my ear, the hissing was obvious. I put the torch head back on the tank and it stopped it, of course. I then opened the torch valve for a send and closed it, thinking maybe it would blow a speck of dirt out of the tank valve. I then separated the torch and tank again, and it was no longer leaking. I didn't trust the thing, though, so I kept the torch on the tank.
Those Schraeder-type valves are actually awfully simple devices and may not be reliable enough given what could happen!
Jon
Reply to
Jon Elson
I've only had one leak afterwards... hmm, I've always assumed the safest way to handle the tanks is to put the torch on, use it, take the torch off immediately.
Would leaving the torch mounted until the tank is empty be a better procedure? A quick look around
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doesn't turn up anything relevant.
Reply to
Joe Pfeiffer
Kink sez:
"Nonsense. Propane in a cylinder cannot explode, as no oxygen is present."
And he sez, again:
"Think about it. If fuel-air headspaces were such a hazard, then every lawnmower gasoline can and automobile gas tank would be a bomb. You don't see them being outlawed like a puny propane refillable."
Tell that to the NTSB examiners of TWA Flight 800. Their report: An explosion of the center wing fuel tank (CWT), resulting from ignition of the flammable fuel/air mixture in the tank. The source of ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty, but, of the sources evaluated by the investigation, the most likely was a short circuit outside of the CWT that allowed excessive voltage to enter it through electrical wiring associated with the fuel quantity indication system. Contributing factors to the accident were the design and certification concept that fuel tank explosions could be prevented solely by precluding all ignition sources and the design and certification of the Boeing 747 with heat sources located beneath the CWT with no means to reduce the heat transferred into the CWT or to render the fuel vapor in the tank nonflammable.
Bob Swinney
Reply to
Robert Swinney
the flammable fuel/air
be determined with
was a short circuit
electrical wiring associated
were the design and
precluding all ignition
located beneath the CWT
fuel vapor in the tank
Follow up: Unfortunately, I had to leave town this same afternoon, and was unable to find out more information about this incident. I will be back Tuesday. I plan to call the fire department, talk to the neighbhors and possibly the plumbers. I'll check to see if there is an article in the local newspaper. I will post back after I get more facts. -Mike
Reply to
mlcorson
The instructions that come with torches of all kinds say to never leave them connected when finished using.
Bob (kiss) Swinney
snipped-for-privacy@prolynx.com writes:
I've only had one leak afterwards... hmm, I've always assumed the safest way to handle the tanks is to put the torch on, use it, take the torch off immediately.
Would leaving the torch mounted until the tank is empty be a better procedure? A quick look around
formatting link
doesn't turn up anything relevant.
Reply to
Robert Swinney

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