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Propane, LP Gas Tanks and Wildfires - How To Prepare

Propane tanks and wildfires, grass fires and safety

Wildfires and out of control grass fires make the news almost daily in differing parts of the US. The fires are fueled by dry weather conditions, drought and other environmental factors that threaten homes and businesses in their path. The bulk of these wildfires occur in rural areas where continuous acres of natural vegetation outnumber acres of developed land. Propane is the fuel of choice in rural areas and preparation for a potential grass fire involves routine but simple care to protect your LP Gas tank and your home.

Propane Tanks and Fire Protection

The best way to prepare for a wildfire is in advance, meaning fire isn't currently headed your way. It's important to be aware of drought, fire weather watches and fire warnings if your propane tank could potentially be affected. Keeping the area surrounding a propane tank clear of debris and anything flammable goes a long way in wildfire protection. Ensuring that the tank is up off the ground and properly installed on blocks helps prevent direct flame impingement upon the propane tank itself. A good rule of thumb is to keep a 10' radius around propane tanks clear of anything that may be used as fuel for a fire. This includes long and uncut grass, leaves, trash, tires or anything combustible that could be consumed by fire. Additional steps that can be taken to prevent flame impingement on a propane tank include the following or a combination of:

  • Scalp (cut the grass/weeds closely) the area around a tank exposing bare ground
  • Use weed/grass killer around the tank after cutting vegetation to the surface
  • Spreading base material or gravel around the tank to prevent vegetation growth
  • Ensure the propane tank color is reflective and free of rust to avoid initial pressure buildup
  • Ensure that all propane tank distance requirements are satisfied

Propane cylinders should be stored in a manner similar to that of a large residential propane tank. They should sit on a level fireproof surface with the surrounding area clear of debris, tall grass or other combustible material. Because cylinders are portable, they can easily be moved to a new location in the event of a grass fire or wildfire.

Propane Tanks, Fire Weather and Fire Danger

During periods of drought and/or low humidity, chances for grass fires and wildfires increase. It's during these times that all residents subject to fire danger stay alert to conditions that may impact them and their homes. Tuning to television and radio stations to stay informed will help keep residents aware of any approaching fire threat. If you have been ordered to evacuate or are in the path of a fire, there are important actions to undertake prior to leaving the area. These propane specific steps should only be taken if time allows and always follow fire evacuation orders as given by authorities and safety personnel.

  • Close the propane tank service valve by turning the handwheel clockwise
  • Close all appliance valves and gas valves inside the house(s) or structure(s)
  • Do not move propane cylinders into a garage, indoors or anywhere near a house or structure
  • Move propane cylinders away from any house or structure to an area where fire impact will be minimal
  • Contact your propane company to inform them of your evacuation status after leaving the area

In the event of an approaching fire, all valves should be closed to minimize possible fire damage to the structure(s). If propane valves are left open, escaping LP Gas may cause increased damage to property. Safety relief valves that open during a fire may intensify damage which is one reason why tanks must meet LP Gas container distance requirements and propane cylinders should be moved away from a home or structure.

Propane and Returning Home After Wildfire

If in fact you do have to evacuate due to a wildfire, there are certain steps to be taken upon returning to your home. Hopefully, your home will have sustained no damage and returning to your residence will be a relieving experience but keep in mind that activating your propane gas supply needs to be handled by the propane company as your LP Gas tank system will need to be inspected. The following points should be considered before returning home.

  • Do not drive your vehicle directly up to your home following a brush fire or wildfire
  • If you smell gas, leave the area immediately. Do not attempt to inspect the situation yourself
  • Do not open any appliance valves, gas valves or propane tank service valves
  • Contact your propane company to inform them of your return

Propane companies commonly monitor grass fires and wildfires in their service area and if called about an affected customer or customer propane tank, the gas company will promptly respond. Calls to a propane company concerning propane tanks and grass fires (or any fire) are of the highest priority and are handled accordingly. Additionally, because the flow of gas was interrupted when the tank was turned off, a propane system leak test is required.