Alta Sierra, CA –
By Roman Gokhman, The Union
Eleven-year-old Tyler Quirarte and 8-year-old Grace Magni were having a blast with a group of friends at a pool party on tiny Marion Way in Alta Sierra. None of them had any idea that the real blast was yet to come.
“There was a big ‘kaboom!’ – like five of them,” Tyler said. “And then suddenly there were flames up in the air,” Grace said.
The explosion was from propane leaking from a 500-gallon tank, and destroyed a garage, a travel trailer and two vehicles. No one was hurt in the blast, which was set off by a series of mishaps.
The chain reaction responsible began with a truck backing into a neighboring driveway. Reportedly, the brakes in the truck went out and the truck bumped into a travel trailer. The travel trailer slipped off of a parking pad near the house’s garage, shearing off a valve to a 500-gallon propane tank.
The gas leaked out of the tank and surrounded the house at 16706 Marion, traveled downhill and encircled a next-door neighbor’s home.
“I heard the hissing,” said Edward Rodgers, who lives behind the house where the tank was located. “It sounded like (my neighbor) was cleaning his trailer.”
“That thing really blew up – wow,” Rodgers said.
During the initial fireball, flames rose 50 feet into the sky, scorching trees and homes alike, firefighters said. Rodgers said he had to put out a small fire near his property with a garden hose after dry leaves caught fire.
“I was thanking my lucky stars I have a metal roof,” Rodgers said.
No one was hurt in the blaze, but the potential for disaster was there, Consolidated Battalion Chief Vern Cannon said.
Grass Valley Police Sgt. Dave Remillard, who lives on the street, also heard the hissing and helped the senior couple where the tank was located out of their home. He then got another elderly woman out of a neighboring house, which was also surrounded by propane gas, Cannon said.
“Quite likely, we would have had some fire injuries or fatalities” if not for Remillard’s heroics, Cannon said. “He is really the hero in this because he got everybody out.”
Remillard declined to comment on his actions.
The garage attached to the home where the original crash happened was destroyed, along with a vehicle inside, the pickup truck and the trailer. The residents declined to comment for the story.
The next-door neighbor’s home suffered smoke damage. Flames reached the sides and back deck because the propane gas was swept downhill from the main house.
“Propane is heavier than air so it is going to sit on the ground,” Cannon said.
Nevada County Consolidated, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Grass Valley fire departments responded, as well as California Highway Patrol officers, who blocked off the street to all non-residents. The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and several ambulances from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital were also on hand.
One firefighter suffered a heat-related injury and was taken to the hospital, Cannon said.
The combined damage to the two homes will probably be between $300,000 and $400,000, he said.