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Contractors recommend gas detectors in wake of home explosions

Jul 03, 2023Jul 03, 2023

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.-Longtime firefighters say gas explosions that destroy homes are rare despite the fact they now know of two that occurred just last week.

Late Monday night Aug. 21, a large home exploded in Mooresville, North Carolina, killing the 61-year -old father of Tennessee Titans football player Caleb Farley.

On Wednesday Aug. 23, a Santa Maria home in Hancock Village exploded, critically injuring an 83 year old resident and damaging surrounding homes.

Both explosions are being blamed on natural gas.

Santa Maria's Deputy Fire Chief Jim Clayton said the Santa Maria explosion is the first in his 30 year career.

Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Daniel Bertucelli said they usually get called to check on a possible leak.

"We do run a lot of gas inside structure calls, but rarely does it turn out to be a situation like what we had in Santa Maria where the actual house exploded," said Bertucelli. "

Although COVID impacted the sense of smell in some people, firefighters say an additive added to gas is supposed to help people recognize gas.

The largest component of natural gas is methane.

"Since natural gas is odorless they added an ingredient called mercaptan and mercaptan is what gives it that rotten egg smell," said Bertucelli, " and that smell is detectable by the human nose at 1.6 parts per billion, so you can smell that, it's a very strong pungent smell."

Both firefighters said it is important not to have ignition sources nearby.

Fire trucks have detectors.

"We have 4-gas detectors on our engines that detect methane and we are able to go into structures when we do get calls for gas inside structures and our 4-gas monitor will tell us if there is natural gas present,"

They said resident can get methane gas detectors for their homes.

"We do normally carry them but we are out right now, " said Santa Barbara's Ace Hardware sales associate Mikey Mardueno," We should be getting some more in soon."

A couple other stores in the area were sold out, too.

It is unclear it the sales are linked to the tragedies.

But all the hardware stores said said customers can also buy them online.

Santa Barbara contractor Doug Grant said that is the right thing to do.

"These days you got to have three you have to have a smoke detector for smoke, you have to have a carbon monoxide detector in case something in the kitchen burns and you have to have a gas detector and that is one that most people don't have and it could have saved that house," said Grant.

Firefighters said they can save lives and property.

"Obviously safety around gas is really important, especially as we move to the winter and people use heaters and are indoors, " said Clayton.

"If you do smell gas inside your house or hear gas hissing the best thing to do is exit the area, go to a safe location and call 911 for emergency response," said Bertucelli.

Firefighters and the gas company will know what to do next.

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