Lower Valley, TX – El Paso – Friday’s explosion and fire in the Lower Valley, which has now claimed the lives of four children and an adult and left two women in critical condition, leaves a mourning community with a tragic lesson.

A camp heater in the home ignited a leaking propane tank, causing the blast. Keeping propane tanks in a closed and relatively unventilated environment is dangerous, especially when there are open flames around.

The problem apparently was exacerbated because the tank was leaking, and it was only a matter of time before the inevitable explosion. And, in a relatively closed environment, the effects of the explosion were no doubt magnified.

The urge to stay warm and comfortable, especially during the winter months, is strong indeed. But care must be taken in how that is accomplished.

Equipment such as camp heaters aren’t intended for indoor use, yet many people employ them for just that. They’re effective for their intended use, but become potentially lethal when used indoors.

Don’t be tempted to warm your home using methods not intended for home heating. Sometimes people try to use their stoves and ovens for that purpose, but that’s not a good idea. Gas stoves or ovens left unattended can malfunction

and churn out explosive gas; electric heating elements can cause serious burns, especially to children fascinated by the red glow.

Flammables such as propane, butane and gasoline shouldn’t be stored in the home. If you must store them keep them in appropriate, non-leaking containers outside, away from the home to minimize damage in case of explosion or fire.

Make sure that windows and doors in your home aren’t blocked, so that family members can escape if necessary. Make sure the window latches work. And if you have security bars on windows, know which ones open and how to open them.

If you have any doubt at all about the correct functioning of your natural-gas furnace, call Texas Gas Service or a plumber to have it checked. In addition to fire and explosion dangers, there’s always the invisible menace of carbon monoxide, which can kill silently. Invest in a carbon-monoxide detector.

If you have an electric heater and have doubts about its operation, call El Paso Electric or a qualified electrician.

Keeping a warm and cozy home is important. Just make sure that your heating equipment is functioning correctly and that you use good practices in storing dangerous materials.