Heather Stefanek indicates the location of the propane tank on the family motorhome that an attendant at a Kamloops gas station dangerously overfilled by 50 per cent. (Photo contributed)

Heather Stefanek indicates the location of the propane tank on the family motorhome that an attendant at a Kamloops gas station dangerously overfilled by 50 per cent. (Photo contributed)

Alert B.C. campers raise alarm and avert potential propane disaster

Salmon Arm camper lodges a complaint with Technical Safety BC after motorhome tank is over-filled.

  • Jul. 16, 2018 10:00 a.m.

Mitch Stefanek and his wife, Heather, could have been sleeping on a bomb.

Fortunately the seasoned campers knew that handled carelessly, or over-filled, propane tanks can be very dangerous, and lodged a complaint with Technical Safety BC (formerly BC Safety Authority), who is now investigating a recent incident.

On July 10, the Stefaneks stopped at a popular gas station on the east end of Highway 1 in Kamloops to get the under-mount propane tank on their motorhome filled.

Mitch says the attendant, who had recently transferred from one of the company’s other 21 outlets in B.C., was talkative and seemed unskilled right from the get-go, failing to wear protective gloves when handling the propane hose.

The attendant’s next fail was not opening a spit valve on the tank before filling it and Mitch assumed there was some kind of new feature on the hose that would automatically stop when the tank reached the standard 80 per cent full line.

He explains that the spit valve rises up to force air out of the tank. When the tank is filled to 80 per cent, the valve spits out a little bit of the liquid propane to indicate the process is complete. The attendant turns off the hose and then the spit valve is shut off.

“He just pumped and pumped and pumped liquid propane into the tank, filling it up as if it was a gas pump on a vehicle, not a propane tank.”

Related: Dangerous goods travel by rail daily

Mitch was further surprised that his bill was $45 when he normally pays $25 for a fill. He became immediately alarmed when he returned to his motorhome to discover a gauge indicated his tank was now over-filled by 50 per cent.

“I said ‘my tank is super over-filled,’ but he said ‘no problem,’” adds Mitch, who then got the same response from the ‘main person’ at the retail outlet’s till, who dismissed a request to bleed the tank to a safe level.

Rather than argue, Mitch and Heather drove to Can West Gas on the Yellowhead Highway, a place they had patronized with satisfaction in the past.

“He said it was very dangerous,” Mitch said, noting the proprietor had him take his motorhome around the back of the station well away from gas pumps and other vehicles. “He connected a large propane torch directly to the tank and was blasting away for more than 20 minutes.”

Mitch says, if one assumes the safety (spit) valve was working properly, increased altitude or temperature could have resulted in the release of propane from the tank trailing along the road behind and possibly blowing the gas over to the muffler, igniting a fire.

“The worst-case scenario is the tank explodes,” says Mitch, noting the Can West operators refused to accept payment for service. “When we asked why, they told us that they receive probably a dozen incidents like this a year where gas stations using untrained or poorly trained attendants substantially overfill propane tanks and felt this was a community service they were willing to provide.”

Related: Hydrogen fuel cell cars

A Jan. 27, 2017 Technical Safety BC directive spells out the requirements for safe handling of propane tanks: 

“Propane shall only be transferred from one container to another by an individual that is the holder of an applicable certificate of qualification recognized by the authority having jurisdiction.”

Furthermore, the directive states that training must be delivered by “individuals certified, authorized or employed by the related training body or provider” that have been approved by a provincial safety manager.

Laura McLeod, acting communications and media relations team leader, says a Technical Safety BC safety officer has been assigned to investigate the incident.

In the meantime, Mitch wonders how many untrained or unskilled attendants across the province are putting people’s lives in jeopardy.


@SalmonArm
barbbrouwer@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Central Saanich has rejected plans for a pilot project that would allow food trucks in Centennial Park. (Black Press Media file photo)
Central Saanich puts brakes on food truck pilot project

Coun. Carl Jensen questions Central Saanich’s consistency

The Pat Bay Highway was closed for several hours Monday morning after a drug-impaired driver crashed into two hydro poles. (Black Press Media file photo)
UPDATE: Pat Bay closure caused by drug-impaired driver

Man struck two hydro poles, closing a section of the Pat Bay Monday morning

Police are looking for witnesses and video footage after a crash on June 18. (Photo courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP looking for videos related to Corvette crash

Driver believed to have fled the scene of View Royal crash

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for Greater Victoria with unusually high temperatures expected Monday and this coming weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria’s first week of summer will be a scorcher

Special weather statement issued Monday by Environment Canada

A rendering shows what the Doral Forest Park development would look like from the southwest. (Rendering via D’AMBROSIO Architecture & Urbanism)
Beaver Lake area project passes next hurdle in Saanich

Council approval for 242-unit parks edge development hinges on meeting of conditions

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

By the end of life, the average North American has eaten the weight of a family sedan in sugar. (Pixabay.com)
FITNESS: Living the sweet life without too much sugar

Simple choices can have a major impact on your health

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Most Read