Heather Stefanek indicates the location of the propane tank on the family motorhome that an attendant at a Kamloops gas station dangerously overfilled by 50 per cent. (Photo contributed)

Alert B.C. campers raise alarm and avert potential propane disaster

Salmon Arm camper lodges a complaint with Technical Safety BC after motorhome tank is over-filled.

  • Jul. 16, 2018 10:00 a.m.

Mitch Stefanek and his wife, Heather, could have been sleeping on a bomb.

Fortunately the seasoned campers knew that handled carelessly, or over-filled, propane tanks can be very dangerous, and lodged a complaint with Technical Safety BC (formerly BC Safety Authority), who is now investigating a recent incident.

On July 10, the Stefaneks stopped at a popular gas station on the east end of Highway 1 in Kamloops to get the under-mount propane tank on their motorhome filled.

Mitch says the attendant, who had recently transferred from one of the company’s other 21 outlets in B.C., was talkative and seemed unskilled right from the get-go, failing to wear protective gloves when handling the propane hose.

The attendant’s next fail was not opening a spit valve on the tank before filling it and Mitch assumed there was some kind of new feature on the hose that would automatically stop when the tank reached the standard 80 per cent full line.

He explains that the spit valve rises up to force air out of the tank. When the tank is filled to 80 per cent, the valve spits out a little bit of the liquid propane to indicate the process is complete. The attendant turns off the hose and then the spit valve is shut off.

“He just pumped and pumped and pumped liquid propane into the tank, filling it up as if it was a gas pump on a vehicle, not a propane tank.”

Related: Dangerous goods travel by rail daily

Mitch was further surprised that his bill was $45 when he normally pays $25 for a fill. He became immediately alarmed when he returned to his motorhome to discover a gauge indicated his tank was now over-filled by 50 per cent.

“I said ‘my tank is super over-filled,’ but he said ‘no problem,’” adds Mitch, who then got the same response from the ‘main person’ at the retail outlet’s till, who dismissed a request to bleed the tank to a safe level.

Rather than argue, Mitch and Heather drove to Can West Gas on the Yellowhead Highway, a place they had patronized with satisfaction in the past.

“He said it was very dangerous,” Mitch said, noting the proprietor had him take his motorhome around the back of the station well away from gas pumps and other vehicles. “He connected a large propane torch directly to the tank and was blasting away for more than 20 minutes.”

Mitch says, if one assumes the safety (spit) valve was working properly, increased altitude or temperature could have resulted in the release of propane from the tank trailing along the road behind and possibly blowing the gas over to the muffler, igniting a fire.

“The worst-case scenario is the tank explodes,” says Mitch, noting the Can West operators refused to accept payment for service. “When we asked why, they told us that they receive probably a dozen incidents like this a year where gas stations using untrained or poorly trained attendants substantially overfill propane tanks and felt this was a community service they were willing to provide.”

Related: Hydrogen fuel cell cars

A Jan. 27, 2017 Technical Safety BC directive spells out the requirements for safe handling of propane tanks: 

“Propane shall only be transferred from one container to another by an individual that is the holder of an applicable certificate of qualification recognized by the authority having jurisdiction.”

Furthermore, the directive states that training must be delivered by “individuals certified, authorized or employed by the related training body or provider” that have been approved by a provincial safety manager.

Laura McLeod, acting communications and media relations team leader, says a Technical Safety BC safety officer has been assigned to investigate the incident.

In the meantime, Mitch wonders how many untrained or unskilled attendants across the province are putting people’s lives in jeopardy.


@SalmonArm
barbbrouwer@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Wildfires from last year can cause hot spots in Okanagan

Kelowna - Most overwintering fires will occur well within the original fire’s perimeter.

Protecting natural habitat: Okanagan provincial park expands its borders

19 hectares of protected land has been added to Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park in Kelowna

Redesigning a milk carton in Kelowna will help the local bee population

The Build a Mason Bee House takes place Saturday at the Laurel Packinghouse

The good, bad and the unknown of Apple’s new services

The announcements lacked some key details, such as pricing of the TV service

Stranger climbs onto B.C. family’s second-floor balcony, lights fire in barbecue

Incident in Abbotsford terrifies family with two-year-old boy

Harbour Air to convert to all-electric seaplanes

Seaplane company to modify fleet with a 750-horsepower electric motor

‘Planet of the Geese’: Okanagan city’s parks a muck with goose poop

Off leash dogs proposed as a suggestion to cleaning up the mess

VIDEO: Teenage girl was person killed in three-vehicle crash in Coquitlam

Police are investigating the fatal crash at Mariner Way and Riverview Crescent

Sailings cancelled after BC Ferries boat hits Langdale terminal

The Queen of Surrey is stuck on the dock, causing delays to Horseshoe Bay trips

Okanagan Fest of Ale promises to be bigger and better

A record breaking 75 breweries are now confirmed to participate at the annual event in Penticton

SPCA seizes 54 animals from Vernon property

Animals weren’t receiving adequate care

Eviction halted for B.C. woman deemed ‘too young’ for seniors’ home

Zoe Nagler, 46, had been given notice after living in the seniors complex in Comox for six years

Most Read