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Gas Explosion in Larimore North Dakota illustrates dangers with propane and natural gas

Personal Injury Liability

The recent gas explosion in Larimore, North Dakota serves as a reminder that propane and natural gas can be extremely dangerous. Leaking propane ignited by a spark from a water pump switch seriously injured two adults and killed an infant.

We recently concluded a similar case in a home purchased out of a foreclosure. A valve in a gas line that served a gas clothes dryer in the basement of a home was opened, believing the line served a gas fireplace on the main floor. The line spewed natural gas into the home for about 27 hours until it exploded. The home was demolished and two people were seriously burned. Immediate investigation allowed us to determine the origin and cause of the explosion and preserve key evidence.

We also learned during the litigation that uncapped gas lines were more common in foreclosure properties. The departing owners disconnect gas appliances and neglect capping the open end of the appliance line. Current code requirements provide that valves must be located much closer to the appliance than former code provisions. This helps prevent the problem of mistaking what appliance a valve controls.

For natural gas or propane to “explode” the concentration has to be within the explosive range for that gas. The concentration has to be between the Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) and Upper Explosive Limit (UEL). Anything that moves or mixes the gas with the air in the structure, such as walking through a home after opening a door etc., can suddenly bring the gas within the explosive range.