To better understand what residents can do in the immediate area around their homes, Faith Berry of NFPA's Wildland Fire team spoke with Jeremy Keller, who serves with the Macochee Joint Ambulance District and Bellefontaine Fire & EMS, in Ohio. In this second installment, he shares his observations on safety around propane tanks.
Q: Many homes use propane or oil and have those tanks near their structure. How should a resident maintain the area around tanks, and what should they do if there is a wildfire risk?
A: Propane and oil tanks pose a definite risk to both the structure and fire crews during any wildfire incident. When they are installed, be sure that they are placed a safe distance from the home. And, if an existing tank is closer than codes recommend, consider having it relocated. Gas and oil companies will generally follow NFPA 58 or local codes, and place tanks at the correct distance from a home, but older installations may not be compliant with current practice. Check with your gas or oil company, the fire department, or the local code official for safe distances in your area.
Keep all propane and oil tanks free of vegetation. They should not be in a position where direct flame impingement is a possibility. Pay attention to overhanging branches as well. Ensure that all service lines going to the home are buried deep for protection from flames and vehicle traffic.
When necessary, be sure that these tanks are visible and well marked. Don't hide them behind shrubs, fences, or anything else in an effort to camouflage them. Fire crews will want to be aware of their presence and location, so please keep them conspicuous. Also ensure that all utility connections to structures are well maintained and clearly visible. Fire crews may need to shut off gas and electric service, and will need to find these service connections in a hurry.