Deep snow creates hazards
After losing a home to a fire from an apparent fuel leak last week, fire prevention officials and natural gas and propane suppliers are urging people to clear their gas meters and propane tanks of ice and snow.
Crested Butte Fire Protection District chief Ric Ems warned that the freeze/thaw cycle of spring can damage gas connections, which could create gas leaks. Although Ems could not comment on the nature of the leak that razed the residence near Jack’s Cabin cutoff, south of Crested Butte on February 26, he said frozen gas lines created a significant fire hazard.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said of the potentially pipe-cracking temperature swings.
Ems said the unusually deep snow this winter made the problem of buried and frozen gas meters particularly severe. “When people are cleaning snow from their roofs, they need to be cognizant of where their meter is,” he said.
Ideally, according to Atmos Energy public affairs manager Kevin Kerrigan, the gas meter should be completely dug out. “That allows access for our personnel and allows access for the fire department in case of emergencies,” he said. Atmos Energy supplies natural gas to county residents.
Ems said snow-covered vents also pose a hazard because deadly carbon monoxide can become trapped within living areas. Atmos Energy operations supervisor Dan Higgins said all vents should be completely cleared. “The vent system of any gas appliance should be uncovered and free of snow and care taken not to damage them,” he said.
Crested Butte Fire Protection District inspector Scott Wimmer also asked that people uncover their propane tanks, “so the pressure release valves are accessible. They need to be open to atmospheric air so they can breathe.”
Ems said part of the problem is the multitude of unlived-in second homes, where snow has piled up throughout the season. Kerrigan said Atmos was doing what it could to notify property owners that they should make arrangements to dig out their meters.
Higgins said Atmos is urging their customers to make sure their meters are uncovered primarily for safety reasons. “The safety of our customers and the fire department is our greatest concern,” he said.