Well, the season is well underway and I actually have the BBQ out for the first time in three years. Nope, I cleaned out the tubes and left the lid open so there were no big bangs in my neighbourhood. Let’s talk propane for a minute.

  • The BBQ bottle, lift truck or house trailer outside mounted cylinder.
  • The secured enclosed bottle in the trunk of a car. (Black diamond sticker)
  • The underslung tank, usually on a van/cookhouse, motorhome, etc.
  • The industrial tank often found at farms.
  • Automotive fuel – exterior bottom mounted vehicle tank. (Blue dated windshield sticker)

Propane is the safest of the liquid fuels. To explode, it needs to be enclosed with air and a spark.

Re Google: rv life propane system explode

I watched the film in the above article from one of my RV sources. Every time I see the media stick the word “explode” in relation to propane, I am outraged.

You read this heading and most of you get all excited with the FEAR of propane. That spreads and catches on really quickly and fear is killing businesses. The world has an unfounded, unnecessary, fear of propane.

Propane is safer than the gasoline your car runs on or you let your kid run your lawnmower/snowblower with. Here is the fallacy. You read the article (and at almost any fire where propane MIGHT be involved) you see the media exploit the word “explode”. Watch this film. I didn’t see any explosion here.

The fire in the film, probably caused by smoking, something hot against fabric inside or electrical. Propane was not involved in this fire. Here’s how I know:

Propane tanks on a motorhome are slung underneath the vehicle. Nick-2015There is no flooring below them, therefore, a propane fire would burn from underneath, not above or inside to begin with. Unless obstructed, it would likely be one long intense flame going in one direction. A propane fire burns exactly like a butane lighter. Propane is heavier than air and therefore, goes to ground. It does not spread on the ground like gasoline. Propane will not burn if the mixture with air is less than 2.2% or more than 9.7 %. It needs to be enclosed to mix and combine with the air, like in a garage or building, to “explode” as it fills up from the bottom. When it reaches the right mixture it needs a spark.

Like the butane lighter, a propane fire comes from a single location and continues burning from that location until it runs out of fuel. The higher the inside pressure, the longer the flame.

Now, let’s say a fire burns material underneath the propane tank heating up the propane inside. Every propane tank has safety plugs built into the bottom of them. They are designed to be weaker than the 3/8″ steel the tank is made of and blow when the pressure builds up too greatly. Of what material and thickness are your gasoline tanks made? Scissors will do!

This releases the propane, again in a giant rush, therefore, unlikely to reach the proper burning percentage. It blows like a white fog and dissipates quickly. By the way, when those safety plugs blow, it will look like an explosion because the propulsion will lift and throw the tank. BBQ bottles/cylinders, because they are lighter, can be thrown as much as 3 miles.

The guy’s comment in the film: “5-minutes and they haven’t got a hose on that yet”. Firefighters will not try to put out a propane fire. Notice where they positioned their first trucks in this film? Nowhere near the front or back of that RV and out of range of a flying tank. For propane fires, they send a fine spray of water on the tank to cool it to make it less likely to rupture and keep the safety plugs from blowing. They generally let all the fuel burn/escape and protect the surrounding areas.

I couldn’t tell you how many years ago it was now, but a propane tanker caught fire near where the toll booths once were on the Burlington Skyway Bridge. It burned for hours but, all the Hamilton Fire Dept. did was continue to spray a fine stream of water on to cool it. It eventually burned out, they replaced the asphalt and re-opened the highway.

Keep your people safe.
The beauty of life is in your hands.

About the Author

Your Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions

Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.

As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.

Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.