Continued increase in snow-related gas leaks, carbon monoxide emergencies

North Tahoe Fire continues to see an alarming number of gas leaks, Carbon Monoxide (CO) related emergencies, and other hazard-related emergencies resulting from repeated storms and heavy snow. Firefighters continue their mission to empower the public with actions that should be taken to prevent snow-related emergencies. 

North Tahoe Firefighters are responding to a steady increase in CO emergencies throughout the region. CO is called the “silent killer” because it is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and non-irritating. If the early signs of CO poisoning are ignored, a person may lose consciousness and be unable to escape the danger, which can lead to death. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like,” with the most common symptoms of CO poisoning reported as headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Firefighters encourage residents to ensure they have working CO alarms in their homes so they can be alerted in the event of a CO leak.

Many of these incidents are the result of heavy snow build-up on combustion-appliance venting, buried foundation vents, and improper or snow-obstructed home generator ventilation systems. Gas leaks are also on the rise due to deeply buried propane tanks, above-ground propane plumbing, and buried natural gas meters impacted by the snow. The repetitive freeze-and-thaw cycles following winter storms, combined with the weight of the snowpack, places glacial-like torsional stress on tanks and propane plumbing systems, causing dangerous leaks.

Roof snow-shedding, which is always a danger to people and pets, is also a danger to gas meters, propane tanks, and above-ground gas plumbing, and is another common cause of leaks. Gas leaks caused by snow removal efforts are also reported.

Propane tanks/cylinders, gas lines, regulators, and appliance vents need to be continuously maintained throughout the winter by keeping them cleared of snow and ice buildup. North Tahoe Fire urges residents to use caution while clearing snow from rooftops. The district recommends the following:

  • When clearing snow from rooftops, stay clear of the 240V power service drops that may be covered snow by roof cornices, as an aluminum shovel or ladder that comes into contact with it could electrocute and kill a person.
  • Take caution when clearing snow from roofs and protect propane tanks or cylinders, propane lines, regulators, and vents from falling snow.
  • When plowing, snow blowing or shoveling, do not push or pile snow around a tank, meter, regulator, or piping.
  • Use caution when removing snow from the tanks and cylinders, gas piping, and regulators; don’t use sharp tools or force. Carefully clear heavy snow until the tank and equipment are visible; complete final clearing with soft tools such as brooms or brushes to prevent damage to equipment and components.
  • Tanks should not be allowed to run dry; doing so may require an inspection of all gas appliances before the tank can be refilled. Be sure to place refill orders before the tank reaches 30-40 percent and keep tanks clear of snow with a path accessible to gas suppliers.
  • Propane smells like rotten eggs, and propane leaking into snow may release more of a musty odor.
  • Anytime there is an odor of propane or natural gas, call 911 immediately.
  • Watch this Propane Snow Safety PSA (2019), courtesy of Placer County Sheriff and North Tahoe Fire.

Learn more here.

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