MARK'S (NOT SO) DAILY BLOG

Mark Pilgrim Kia

My gas explosion at home

I remember the television show RESCUE 911 hosted by William Shatner. It would always start with him walking from around a corner towards the camera saying something like: "It all began on a typically quiet afternoon on July 25th in the leafy golf estate of Pecanwood. As the Pilgrim family went about their business in their home, little did they know things were about to go seriously wrong...".

With record low temperatures this past weekend, I got a gas heater out of the storeroom that I hadn't used in a few years. I topped up a gas bottle, connected it and opened the valve. Something didn't sound right. It should have been a small hiss as the gas flowed through the pipe and then the hiss should have stopped as it reached the heater itself that was still off. Yet the hiss continued.

It registered in my mind that it was odd I could still hear the hiss, but not having used the heater in so long I doubted my instinct and wrote the sound off to "that's just the way it works". I didn't know that the gas pipe had probably corroded over time and gas was escaping. The room was well ventilated so I never smelled anything.

I clicked over the igniter. The flame ignited the gas and the heater exploded as the gas in the air caught alight. My saving grace was that I was only 1 metre away from the patio wen it happened and was able to shove the heater onto the grass. If I had lit it in a bedroom I'd be telling a different story now. The entire heater was engulfed in flames as gas continued to pour out of the ruptured pipe and I couldn't get close to switch off the gas bottle.

My biggest concern was that the 9kg gas bottle was going to heat up to such an extent that it was going to explode like a bomb and shatter every window of the house and possibly injure someone. I shouted for Nicole and the girls to get out the other side of the house while I kept a hosepipe trained on the heater. I knew it wouldn't put the flames out but would at least cool the bottle down. Reading websites after the event, it turned out that by the grace of God I had done exactly the right thing to prevent the bottle exploding.

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I tried to protect myself by spraying the heater from behind a pillar, while at the same time frantically dialling Pecanwood Security.  Every now and then the flames would shoot so high they would lick the wooden underside of the patio overhang. It was a real concern that if it wasn't out out soon it would cause a house fire.

Fortunately within minutes 3 security cars screeched to a stop with fire extinguishers and seconds after releasing the spray the fire was suffocated and we were able to close the gas valve.

The bottle seemed intact, but not knowing if it was compromised, it was removed by the emergency services. The heater didn't fare that well:

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So what do I take from this?

1) If you haven't used one of these heaters in a while, have it's integrity checked before using it.

2) Always keep a fire extinguisher in the home.

In fact, I am getting a gas inspector just to do a routine check of my other gas appliances (fireplace and braai).

Lesson learnt. Thank you Pecanwood Estate Security for your quick response time.






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