North Tahoe Fire Protection sees spike in propane related calls after storm

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 9:56 AM PST
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TAHOE CITY, Nev. (KOLO) - The North Lake Tahoe and Meeks Bay Fire Protection Districts say they have noted a spike in propane related calls in the aftermath of storms that have afflicted the area.

While they say such spikes are not uncommon, they are giving the public guidance on how to prevent snow related gas leaks, as the heavy snow is loading on to propane tanks and plumbing systems.

“The repetitive freeze and thaw cycles following these storms in combination with the heavy weight of the snowpack places glacial-like torsional stress on tanks and propane plumbing systems,” said North Tahoe Fire Chief, Steve Leighton. “This damages pipes and valves connecting tanks to structures and appliances, causing leaks that can be hazardous. Mitigating these dangers involves time-intensive and labor-intensive commitments by fire department resources, often during times of heavy call volume.”

Concentrated levels of odorant settle at the bottom of propane tanks as they run dry, causing appliances to emit strong propane odors. The propane can pool underneath the foundations of structures as well, flowing underneath the snow undetected.

The districts recommend the following:

  • Take caution when clearing snow from roofs and protect propane tanks or cylinders, propane lines, regulators, and vents from falling snow.
  • When plowing, snow blowing or shoveling, do not push or pile snow around a tank, meter, regulator, or piping.
  • Use caution when removing snow from the tanks and cylinders, gas piping and regulators, don’t use sharp tools or force. Carefully clear heavy snow until the tank and equipment are visible, complete final clearing with soft tools such as brooms or brushes to prevent damage to equipment and components.
  • Tanks should not be allowed to run dry; doing so may require an inspection of all gas appliances before the tank can be refilled. Be sure to place refill orders before the tank reaches 30-40 percent and keep tanks clear of snow with a path accessible to gas suppliers.
  • Propane smells like rotten eggs, and propane leaking into snow may release more of a musty odor.
  • Anytime there is an odor of propane or natural gas, call 911 immediately.
  • Watch this Propane Snow Safety PSA (2019), courtesy of Placer County Sheriff and North Tahoe Fire