Florida Propane Explosion Likely Caused by Equipment Failure and Human Error
The Florida State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the massive propane explosion that recently injured eight people at the Blue Rhino propane plant located in Tavares. Local authorities do not suspect arson or foul play, but do believe that human error and equipment failure may have caused the blast.
The Blue Rhino facility houses over 50,000 20-pound propane cylinders. These cylinders are typically found on backyard grills and barbeques. The plant refurbishes the cylinders and refills them with propane. According to local authorities, the cylinders are stored on different parts of the property, so as last week’s fire spread, it continued to cause more explosions across the facility. The initial blast occurred shortly after 10:30pm, but explosions continued for roughly 2 ½ hours. Evacuations were made for a half-mile surrounding the scene and flames could be seen for several miles.
The Blue Rhino facility was built in 2004 and employs less than 50 people. According to Tavares Fire Chief Richard Keith, “They actually run a very safe operation. We’ve trained with them. Our fire department works with them.” The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspected the facility approximately two weeks prior to this incident and found no violations.
Damages to the Blue Rhino facility have been estimated at $2 million in property and $1 million in content damage.