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Norman, John. The Unpredictable Propane Barbecue. Firehouse. May, 1989. p. 18+.

Abstract: This article explains the procedures for fighting propane ignited fires. Most grills operate with liquid petroleum gas (LPG), which consists mostly of propane, but will also contain butane and ethane. Propane has a wider explosive range than gasoline and vaporizes at 44 degrees Fahrenheit. Liquid Petroleum Gas will ignite when certain conditions are met. These conditions are easily fulfilled inside a structure and the slightest source of ignition, a static spark or pilot light, can cause a vapor/air explosion. Many incidents of propane/air explosions have prompted jurisdictions to ban indoor storage of LPG.

Propane cylinders apply pressure to propane, compressing the gas to its liquid state. This process decreases its volume to 1/270 of its original volume. When the pressure is released, the liquid immediately begins boiling to a gas and expands to its gas size. This means that one quart of liquid propane will evaporate to 270 quarts of propane vapor. If this process occurs inside an enclosed area, the slightest spark will ignite the propane.

When firefighters arrive at the scene, their main concern is a BLEVE(boiling liquid-expanding Vapor explosion). A BLEVE occurs when the temperature of the propane cylinder increases. This causes the propane to evaporate, rising to the top of the cylinder, and increasing the pressure at the top of the cylinder. The cylinder will reach its failure point and explode. The energy released is powerful and can cause the cylinder to launch in any direction. This is a concern for firefighters who may find themselves in the path of the cylinder. Firefighters should protect themselves and civilians first before extinguishing the fire. The structure or house should be evacuated, including adjacent homes. Firefighters should approach the flames with caution, taking cover behind anything that may protect them the BLEVEing container. From this point on, the operation should be taken slowly to prevent any re-ignition of the fire.

For more information, contact:
PTN Publishing Corporation
445 Broad Hollow Road, Ste 21
Melville, NY 11747
Phone: (516) 845-2700

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