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PABFD responds to propane leak

Rosie’s Burger Bar and nearby buildings evacuated

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES – On Friday afternoon, Aug. 5, the Channel-Port Aux Basques Volunteer Fire Department responded to a call at Rosie’s Burger Bar for a propane leak.

Owner Rose Hautamaki said they called 911 as soon as they realized what was happening.

“We smelt it. We checked around for the gas. My nephew went out and saw it spraying out and immediately we called 911, shut everything down, got everyone out of the building, and just went from there.”

Hautamaki said there are three propane tanks behind the business, two of which are used for takeout, and one that is kept empty for when the generator gets hooked up.

“When the guys came up to fill my propane on Wednesday, they filled up the empty one, which was not supposed to be done. So what happened, because it’s not being used and because it’s been so hot outside, the sun was beating down on it, making the gas expand. So the gas expanded because of the heat and had nowhere to go, so it started spraying out of the release valve.”

Fire Chief Jerry Musseau said minutes after the call came in, the fire department was on scene, closing the road and rerouting traffic. The fire station is located around the corner from the restaurant.

“We closed off the main road there at Edgar Allan’s barber shop down to The Source and diverted traffic on the back of that route,” said Musseau. “Because it was a propane tank, and a very large propane tank at that, we did do the protocol in our emergency response guide to evacuate people within a certain area of the leak. We notified the businesses across the street and the houses in the surrounding areas that we have a leak and advised them to leave their homes or their business.”

Once the fire department arrived on scene, Musseau said the first step was to call the number on the emergency response guide.

“It’s a 1-800 number that we call and they will give us some advice. We tell them what we have, because it’s a dangerous good, and they give us some advice on what we should be doing and what we should not be doing, and we follow those procedures. We just talk to a live agent, but in our emergency response guide it’s basically the same thing they tell us on the phone anyway.”

Musseau said they were informed that the propane tank affected had recently been filled.

“Maybe because of the extreme heat the next day, the liquid probably expanded, the gas expanded and blew off the blow off valve, which is what they’re made for, if the contents expand too much,” said Musseau. “The dangers of a propane leak, it can explode very quickly if there’s an ignition source, a spark or a fire, anything like that. It could cause an explosion in a very fast time. With that amount of heat around, people in that area who could’ve been smoking or using some kind of tool that can cause a spark, you never know because propane can ignite very fast. Any type of ignition source at all could probably spark and go bang. We would certainly have a very serious situation on our hands if that did happen. Thankfully it didn’t.”

The fire department quickly brought the tank pressure down and stopped the leak from getting any worse.

“What we had to do is we had to put cool water onto the tank, and of course, once you make the tank cold, the pressure drops down in the tank. And once it dropped down, it stopped coming out through the blow off valve. Once we got it cold and that, we called Superior Propane Holding Tanks. They advised us to call a local guy and once we got the pressure down, he disconnected the tank from the other two – because there were three tanks behind that building – and we rolled it out from behind the building and loaded it on a flatbed truck and carried it away,” said Musseau.

Hautamaki said they only shut down for the remainder of that day.

“The night before I got the freight porter to come in, because they had to turn all the tanks off, so I just got him to come in that night to turn them back on and check everything inside so that way we could continue business as usual for the next day.”

Hautamaki made sure to get a new propane tank, saying she didn’t want to take back the one that had the leak for obvious reasons.

“Apparently it happens quite often, which I didn’t know, and because the other two tanks are constantly being used, it doesn’t have time to build up the pressure when it gets the heat on it like that. So that was the issue there.”

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