This year marks the fifth anniversary of a tragic propane explosion that occurred at Little General convenience store in Ghent, West Virginia. The explosion killed a total of four people, including two emergency responders and two propane technicians. Two additional emergency responders were injured, as well as four store employees as a result of the explosion. As evident in the photo provided by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal, there was nothing left of Little General. After the propane explosion, the entire store was completely leveled. The propane tank was found 50 feet away from its original location.

The accident occurred as an inexperienced propane technician attempted to transfer propane from a tank located against an outside wall of the store. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) produced the video, “Half an Hour to Tragedy” that depicts the incident in detail. The CSB identified that the following caused the explosion:

  1. The propane company’s inspection and audit program did not identify the tank location as a  hazard;
  2. The propane company did not formally train the junior propane technician, and on the day of the explosion, he was working alone;
  3. The emergency responders were not trained to recognize the need for immediate evacuation during a liquid propane release.

As a result of this tragic propane explosion, the CSB issued many recommendations designed to improve training for propane technicians and improving emergency response actions. Many of these recommendations have been adopted and will result in lives saved, one of which includes the NFPA’s issuing of a temporary standard that provides training and testing guidance to those working with liquefied petroleum gas.

In addition to the NFPA temporary standard, the State Fire Marshal’s Office of West Virginia updated their fire code to include training and qualification requirements for propane workers and the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials developed a guide card for 911 operators to assist in propane emergencies. To learn more about these and other recommendations, please visit the Little General Propane Explosion section of the CSB’s website.