After fatal fire linked to propane leak, officials urge propane tank safety

Propane tanks need to be handled with care and maintained, experts say.

After fatal Kahala fire, here's a warning about propane tanks

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Officials are urging propane safety after a propane leak was blamed for last week’s deadly Kahala fire.

It’s a reminder that propane – despite being so common – needs to be handled with care.

All City Mill stores offer propane tanks. They also provide refills, which is one of the top sellers.

Many Hawaii households use propane, especially for grilling.

When they’re done they usually turn of the grill, but they forget to close this valve.

Authorities say there were three propane tanks in the Whartons' garage, which was open on one side.

The Honolulu Fire Department is not sure why the propane leaked, but it’s urging residents to double check their tanks.

The fire claimed the lives of Connie Wharton and her nine-month-old daughter Sophia last week.

Investigators determined that the leaked propane vapor was ignited by an electrical water heater.

“When there is some kind of circuitry that is used, once it turns on, if it kicks on, maybe your thermostat, once that arc is there, that spark, that can be a source of ignition,” said Captain Scot Seguirant of the Honolulu Fire Department.

Frank Suster, a safety and facilities manager at City Mill, said propane is heavier than air.

“Propane weighs four pounds per gallon, so when you release propane, it settles to the ground and if the wind does not dissipate the propane, it’s going to just sit right there,” Suster said.

Experts recommend storing tanks in a well-ventilated area and removing any connections.

“If your garage area has dust because leaves maybe kind of catch in that area or end up building up, those are signs that it’s not a well-ventilated area.”

You may be able to detect a propane leak if you notice an unpleasant odor.

There’s also a way to check for any leaks.

“You could take soap, dilute it three to one with water, spray it on all the parts of the valve. You can spray it inside here, around the handle," Suster said. “When you open this, if you see bubbles, then the valve is defective.”

Suster said people should treat their propane tank with respect.

“Make sure your valves are nice and tight and turned off [and] you’re diligent about handling it.”

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