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

Fred Penner is coming to Revelstoke

The iconic children’s entertainer will be at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre Oct. 20

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Oct. 14

125 Years Ago: Kootenay Star, October 21, 1893 Revelstoke Station is rapidly… Continue reading

Okanagan RCMP look for owners of various keys located during arrest

RCMP seek to reunite the owners of various keys found at the arrest of suspects in a stolen vehicle.

Cannabis is legal, what do you need to know in Revelstoke?

Smoking regulations and business licenses are specific to a municipality

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Manhunt in Crimea for possible accomplice in school attack

An 18-year-old student, who later killed himself, was initially believed to be the only one involved

Police hand out a few hefty fines for allegedly violating Cannabis Act

Police in Canada posted a photo of a $215 ticket given to someone who allegedly had a baggy of marijuana in their car

Great British Columbia ShakeOut earthquake drill reminder

Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in the Great ShakeOut

South Okanagan hunter injured in ATV incident evacuated by rescue teams

Hunter was found on a mountainside overlooking Cawston

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

BC Ferries begins taking debit in two-month pilot project

Company is giving customers option to use Interac on two-month trial on select vessels

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Most Read