Every day, Americans around the country use natural gas and propane for all kinds of useful purposes—everything from heating their homes to cooking their food. While natural gas and propane are two relatively cost-effective ways to practically meet those needs, they can also be dangerous.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) from 2012-2016, fire departments around the country responded to over 100,000 calls relating to natural gas or propane leaks.

What’s more, is that every year more than 4,000 homes are either destroyed or damaged due to natural gas or propane fire. Many suffer severe burn injuries and more than 40 people lose their lives. Perhaps most troubling of all is that these numbers seem to be on the rise.

At the root of these accidents are several common causes of gas and propane explosions. These factors, more than others, are the cause of the majority of explosions.

Open Bleeder Valve or Bleeder Valve Malfunction

Propane tanks come equipped with what are known as bleeder valves. These valves allow propane to leak from the tank in a safe, controlled way if pressure in the tank is too high. However, if the valve is left open for too long, propane leakage can reach dangerous levels.

In such a situation, a match or cigarette could ignite the propane and cause a fire. If the fire is caught right aways damage can be minimized. However, if the fire is given the opportunity to spread, it can become a significant problem and even cause the tank itself, or other tanks nearby, to explode.

While an open bleeder valve might be the result of user error, it is also possible that the valve would malfunction on its own. If a fire starts because of a faulty valve, the manufacturer could be held liable for damages.

Odor Fade

Because natural gas and propane are odorless, gas companies are required by law to add an odor. This is what gives natural gas and propane their distinct smell. It is this smell that allows people to detect if there is a leak in their home.

However, in some cases, the added odor can fade making it difficult to detect when there is a leak in the home. If this is the case and the leak is substantial, any spark could ignite a fire.

Because the people who use natural gas and propane have no control over the odor of the two gases, it is the responsibility of the companies providing them to make sure odor fade does not occur.

Faulty Appliance or Gas Line

Because we rely so heavily on natural gas and propane, every home has numerous appliances that use either or both gases. If an appliance such as a dryer, oven, or stovetop malfunctions or has a technical issue, it could spell trouble for the individuals living in that home.

In such a case, the manufacturer of the appliance could be liable for the resulting fire or explosion.

Gas lines and other gas-related infrastructure are also run into just about every home in the country. While the overwhelming majority of gas lines are safe and not likely to succumb to technical problems, with a system as massive as it is, malfunctions are bound to happen.

If a technical issue with a gas line leads to an explosion or fire, the gas company, the municipality where the incident occurred, or some other third party could ultimately be responsible for any damage.

How to Prevent Natural Gas and Propane Explosions

There is much you can do to prevent natural gas and propane explosions. Some of the easiest ways to keep these accidents from happening include:

  • Calling 911 if you smell a gas leak
  • Storing propane tanks outdoors and away from other tanks
  • Following all directions when using a natural gas appliance or propane tank

If you follow these steps and treat natural gas appliances and propane tanks as tools and not toys, it will go a long way in keeping you and your loved ones safe from the dangers of natural gas and propane explosions and fires.