An explosive situation
The other day we were responsible for a massive emergency response to Lake Street.
Well, not that massive — at the height of the emergency there were two fire trucks, one police cruiser, and a Dead River van.
Nevertheless, we never expected so much excitement when we got up that morning and went to Franklin to pick up our motor home which had been de-winterized and checked out for the coming vacation season.
The RV had been thoroughly inspected, with Dennis taking a massive mouse nest out of the air filter. Last year, it was squirrels that had found a winter home near the engine, leaving behind a cache of acorns; but, this year, a family of mice had found nice accommodations under the hood of the parked and covered motor home. Dennis noticed that the engine seemed to be having difficulties, and that’s what prompted him to take a closer look.
So, given a clean bill of health and a fresh inspection sticker, the RV needed only to have the propane tank filled for the season and we’d be ready to head out on the road to the sound of The Who’s “Going Mobile” on the speakers.
We returned to Bristol and pulled up alongside the propane fill area at PetroMart and watched as the attendant put 12.3 gallons into the tank to bring it to full. When she went to unhook the hose, however, a cloud of vapor poured out.
“That’s not normal, is it?” we asked somewhat naively.
She retightened the hose, then tried releasing it again. Not only was there more vapor, there was an actual drip of liquid propane, and the valve began to coat with frost.
After fighting with it a bit longer, she decided she had better call Dead River, which advised her to call 911.
Almost immediately, a Bristol police cruiser arrived on the scene, followed a short time later by a fire truck. Some of the fire officials began rigging a hose to the pumper to have it ready if needed while others went over to inspect the propane tank and the connection. After initially standing nearby to hear what they were saying, we realized it would be safer to stand away, so we joined John and Ken on the sidelines.
The firefighters were smart enough to recognize that it was time to call in the propane experts, so another call brought in the Dead River van with a fearless technician who took charge of the situation. He, in turn, called for assistance in setting up a blow-off tree. (When the lead firefighter told me they would run a line to a tree, I thought he was talking about a real tree and thought that was a little unusual, but who am I to question it?)
A second fire truck arrived to provide additional backup and soon there was a line bypassing the valve and carrying the propane to a fixed pole which was ignited to burn off the propane in the tank until the pressure was reduced enough to allow them to disconnect the hose and cap off the fill valve. It takes a while to burn off even a small amount of propane so, once it was apparent that there was not going to be an explosion, the second firetruck and the police officer were able to return to other things.
Just as I was thinking I might slip across the street to grab some lunch at Gilly’s Restaurant, it was over. The fill hose was disconnected, a lock was placed on the tank, and I was receiving information on the likely cause (a stuck valve) and what to tell the people at the RV place where I would have to take the motor home to have the valve and perhaps the whole tank replaced.
After paying for the propane I had purchased and watched go up in flames, I was on my way home, a mere three hours after picking up the RV. Next day, it was back in Franklin, waiting for Dennis to do what needed to be done to avoid a repeat of that very interesting morning when I called out Bristol’s emergency responders.